In Birmingham, DPAC, Birmingham Against the Cuts, Right to Work and Enable joined together for a lunchtime demonstration outside the building that ATOS use for the Work Capability Assessments (WCAs).
ATOS rent space on the first floor of Five Ways House to carry out WCAs in Birmingham. The first floor is not wheelchair accessible, so whenever someone who can’t use stairs comes to be assessed as to whether they are fit for work, they have to use extra space on the ground floor.
As part of today’s demonstration, activists got into body bags and lay in front of the building, to illustrate the claims that 5 people have committed suicide as a result of the reassessment process that ATOS handle. At our public meeting earlier this month, Sam spoke about the attacks being carried out on disabled people:
they are decimating everything. It’s not about whether I win or lose, it’s about whether I live or die
The ATOS assessments amount to a computer ticklist, and they ignore GPs advice in favour of what the computer says. These assessments are designed to strip benefits away from people.
40% of appeals at which the claimant represents themselves are succesful – this figure rises to 70% when someone is represented.
In addition to the £100m/year payments we make to ATOS, the appeals process costs an estimated £30m-£40m extra.
During the time of the appeal process, claimants do not get benefits, and these appeals have been known to last up to 18months.
The way in which disabled people are treated is disgraceful, and ATOS recently threatened to sue 3 websites which were critical of them, including Carer Watch which provides a vital support network and community for disabled people and carers. This threat resulted in all 3 websites being pulled by their ISPs as a precautionary measure. This is a standard thing for ISPs to do in the UK due to our libel laws and the expense of fighting cases.
Also, ATOS IT were recently handed the contract for the Paralympics, and the ATOS founder and former chair is now on the board of the Paralympic committee. This is a disgraceful insult to British disabled people who suffer so badly at the hands of this company.
You can still take part in today’s online action, or get involved with the fight against the Welfare Reform Bill. There will be future actions in Birmingham as part of national events against ATOS.
To see what else has happened around the UK, the Benefit Claimants Fight Back website is probably the best place to go.
DPAC have collected links from some of the demos here and here.
Additionally, 2 activists were arrested in Nottingham. One of the arrestees is a wheelchair user, and the police do not have a wheelchair accessible van, so they had to charge and bail him on the spot. The other activist was released later on that evening. Hopefully the charges will be dropped quickly.
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