Aug 282012
 

More than twenty people attended the protest at ATOS healthcare’s Arden House assessment centre in Newcastle upon Tyne on 28 August.

As well as disabled people negatively affected by the decisions of ATOS and members of Disabled People Against Cuts, supporters from a number of local anti-cuts groups including Newcastle Anti Cuts Network, Unite the Resistance and Youth Fight for Jobs and Education attended.

A number of people spoke about their personal situations and the negative impact the Work Capability Assessment and the benefits process in general has had on their lives.

Others warned about the impact continuing ‘welfare reform’ will have on those who experience mental health problems, and the impact this pressure and income reduction will have on their families and children.

While there was criticism of the culture and attitude of ATOS and its management towards benefit claimants, someone made the point that ATOS’s workers are members of the PCS trade union who had voted recently for industrial action on the issue of pay.

We approached the centre’s manager and offered to organise a public meeting for disabled claimants and their families where ATOS would be given the opportunity to defend their Work Capability Assessment to those affected by it, but they weren’t keen on this idea.

Local activists are meeting for a coffee at Newcastle Central Library at 1pm on Saturday 1 September to discuss what to do next.

Our leaflet for the protest made the following points:

• The medical assessment company ATOS Origin portray themselves as the friends of disabled people through their sponsorship of the Paralympics, while at the same time working with the Department for Work and Pensions to remove more than a million disabled people off incapacity benefits.

• ATOS Origin’s healthcare division administers a brutal assessment called the Work Capability Assessment that was first introduced in 2008 by New Labour along with the Employment and Support Allowance.

• Even young disabled people with life-limiting conditions that mean they will die in their late teens or early twenties have to fill in an intrusive medical form before a decision is taken as to whether they should be formally assessed or not.

• 70% of ATOS decisions declaring disabled people as ‘fit for work’ are overturned on appeal where somebody is represented.

• Following a unanimous vote at the British Medical Association’s GPs annual conference in May 2012, it is now the policy of Britain’s 44,000 General Practitioner’s to campaign for the scrapping of the Work Capability Assessment.

• The right-wing press point to stories of incapacity and disability benefit fraud based on a sprinkling of cases, but they have been quick to forget about the expenses scandal involving the very MPs who voted for ‘welfare reform’.

• ATOS Origin has made hundreds of millions from running the Work Capability Assessment for the DWP, and has now been awarded the contract to reassess millions of disabled people for the new Personal Independence Payments.

• We call for the Work Capability Assessment and recent Welfare Reform Acts to be scrapped, the DWP’s contracts with ATOS Origin and all private companies to end immediately, and the introduction of a more humane and compassionate welfare system where claimants are assessed and supported according to their abilities and needs linked to policies to create full employment.

 

May 202012
 

Let’s go on a journey back in time to the year 1948 …

 Britain was emerging from a World War and had a huge national debt. Much bigger than the one we face today. Did we see painful cut backs and austerity measures?

No, quite the opposite. We saw the birth of our National Health Service and the Welfare State. The UK was the first country to make health care, social care and financial security accessible to all.

1948 saw the launch of ground-breaking new laws designed to protect and care for everybody in our society, including universal unemployment benefits,, universal child benefits, disability benefits, rights to housing and the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

1948: a year when the Olympics were last in town; and the people of Britain were, at last, looking forward to the future.

Britain back then really was “all in it together”. The future looked better than the past. So, we partied in the streets and dreamt of what we could achieve as peo-ple and as a country.

 Fast forward to 2012 and things feel rather different. The government is not playing fair: its spending cuts are the deepest for decades and it’s cheating ordinary people by forcing them to suffer for an economic crisis they didn’t cause.

The government is also lying: it actively enables big business to dodge tax and slashes tax rates for the wealthy. Right now, for us, for ordinary people in this country, the future’s not what it used to be.

So now is the time to party like it was 1948. Street parties are going to be all the rage for the Queen’s Jubilee. But let’s make ours have a twist.

 On Saturday 26th May join UK Uncut’s Great British Street Party to demand that we keep our public services, our rights and our welfare system and to celebrate a new future that isn’t dictated to us by a handful of millionaires but decided by us all – together.

Join Notts Uncut at 12 noon on Listergate outside Topshop. For more info find us on Facebook – Notts-Uncut Part-of UK-Uncut, Twitter @nottsuncut or look for event info on Nottingham Indymedia.

For all actions See http://www.ukuncut.org.uk/actions

For London See: http://www.dpac.uk.net/2012/05/ukuncut-great-london-street-party-may-26th/