Tag Archives: ATOS

ATOS National Demo – February 19th

ATOS demonstration leafletThere will be a national demonstration, called by DPAC and the Black Triangle Campaign against ATOS Healthcare, and this government’s disgusting treatment of disabled people in the form of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) for ESA disability benefits, introduced by Labour in 2008. The WCA is a stupid and dangerous failure of a test to assess whether someone can reasonably gain employment and what level of support they need in order to be able to do that. Whilst using this test to force disabled people into work the tories are also closing Remploy factories and workplaces that provided supported employment for disabled people. Those either kicked off to JSA or in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) of ESA face an increasingly harsh and often bizarre sanction regime.

In Birmingham, there will be a demonstration from 12noon at the ATOS assessment centre, by Five Ways, Birmingham.
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/645456685518373/

The nearest train station is Five Ways train station but this does not have level access. From Five Ways train station, exit the station and turn left, and the ATOS assessment centre is in the DWP building on the left a few hundred metres up the road.

For level access, use New Street, Moor Street or Snow Hill Train Station, and go from Victoria Square, through Paradise Forum and down Broad Street until you reach Five Ways Roundabout, where you want to turn left, but cross the road, either under Five Ways roundabout or using pedestrian crossings.
Birmingham City Centre is step free.

The nearest accessible toilets to the demonstration will be in the cinema, restaurants or pubs along Broad Street, within 500 metres of the demonstration site. I think Tesco’s at Five Ways may have accessible toilets which will be closest if someone can confirm that they are there.

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We Will Remember The Victims Of Austerity Britian And Oppose The DWP Which Broke Their Soul

50c16-iain-duncan-smith-image-1-760284306A group of claimants in Birmingham have called a vigil to remember the victims and those suffering from the welfare reforms and culture being created at the DWP. All of you who oppose social injustice in the Birmingham area are invited to take part in commemorative vigil to remember some of the vicitims of companies like ATOS, workfare profiteers like A4e and the Publicly funded Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), all of whom have pushed people over the edge of the emotional abyss.

Saturday 7th September
Broad Street Jobcentre 1pm-2pm
ATOS five ways 2pm-3pm

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Today is International Day of Persons With Disabilities. It is Also the Day Disabled People In the UK Can Be Forced into Unlimited Unpaid Workfare

Boycott Workfare 3rd March 02Monday 3rd December is International Day of Persons With Disabilities, a UN sponsored day to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities.

In a somewhat sick twist of irony that seems typical of this government after the ATOS paralympics sponsorsip, Ian Duncan-Smith’s workfare schemes are to be extended to disabled people who have been placed in the Work Related Activity Group (wrag) by ATOS, where they are expected to be able to find some kind of work and already have some conditionality attached to their benefits. Those with the most serious disabilities who are next expected to look for work are placed in the Support Group.

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Birmingham’s Advice Services Will Be “Overwhelmed” By Disability Benefit Cases Following Reforms

“Tax Avoidance = £25bn, Welfare Cuts = £4.5bn” Banner at DPAC demonstration at the DWP HQ

In a report to Birmingham City Council, 17 charities and non-profit organisations working in Birmingham have slammed the government’s welfare reforms, with predictions of “social meltdown” following the reforms and cuts.

Birmingham Settlement have said that “All advice services will be overwhelmed” by just one of the reforms – the change of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to Personal Independence Payments (PIP) as they expect there will be thousands upon thousands of reviews and challenges to decisions. Birmingham Settlement are primarily a debt advice service, but say they have gone from almost exclusively dealing with debt to now spending 23% of their time dealing with Welfare Benefits, Appeals and Tribunals.
Birmingham CAB say the same, having experienced a 141% increase in people seeking advice just for ESA claims between 2009 and 2011. They warn of an increasing case load as other reforms come into effect, but the cuts in their funding and loss of legal aid income mean 3 of their offices in Birmingham are likely to close, leaving just their city centre bureau running.

The Birmingham Tribunal Unit foresee the same problem, saying that

The changes to the benefit system will, in the short term particularly, put pressure on already stretched advice agencies. Coupled with cuts in the legal aid provision, there will be fewer places for people to seek quality advice and help.

Given the large numbers of people appealing ATOS decisions regarding Employment Support Allowance (ESA), and the large number of successful appeals, this is very concerning, as it will mean many people getting kicked off the benefits they should be on, with reduced payments impacting upon their health and standard of living, and those who could be working will not receive the support they need in order to do so.

This change from DLA to PIP has been explicitly linked to reducing the amount paid out on a benefit which is often life changing. The reform to the benefit, which is available for people in employment as well as those out of work, has been criticised by paralympians.
The DWP say they want to see a 20% reduction in overall payments, and 9,000 people in Birmingham are expected to be affected by the cuts, with the lower rate of payments being removed entirely, leaving many disabled people at least £20 a week worse off.

Freshwinds say these cuts will lead to

  • Less mobility and higher levels of isolation among physically disabled groups (especially those who are currently in receipt of the Low Rate Care Component of DLA).
  • Increase in fuel poverty – particularly among groups whose illness or disability may necessitate a higher fuel consumption
  • Decreased ability to pay for care in the home
  • Increase in mental health issues including anxiety and depression – overall negative impact on well-being

    This reform is only one of a number of changes and cuts to disability benefits, which Birmingham and Solihull Women’s Aid say will affect their clients:

    Severe cuts affecting disabled adults and children, with the abolition of DLA for adults and replacement (for some) by Personal Independence Payment (with a 20 per cent budget cut), and the abolition of the Severe Disability Premium, cuts to the disability element of Child Tax Credit and to the disability element of Working Tax Credit. Alongside this will be other cuts in contributory ESA

    Age Concern say that although older people are mostly excluded from these welfare reforms, they are still concerned about the effect reforms will have on the wider family unit and especially on those with progressive conditions. They say that

    The suspicion has not been allayed that the primary intention of the reform is to make significant budget cuts at the expense of some of the most vulnerable in our community – the sick, the disabled, their carers and their dependents.

    One reform that is already happening is the move from Incapacity Benefit (IB) to ESA, and the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) process run by ATOS, which has been condemned by the British Medical Association as unfit for purpose.

    Nearly half of decisions made by ATOS are appealed with a success rate of 40% (a rate that rises to 70% when advocates or solicitors are involved). This means around one fifth of all decisions are overturned – 150,500 people wrongly assessed from 2008-2011 – costing taxpayers £50million each year on top of the £100million a year contract with ATOS. The human cost of these decisions can be seen in the 32 deaths every week of people who have been judged fit for work by ATOS, including a Birmingham man who died from his heart condition just 3 weeks after being told he was fit for work.

    Additionally, those kicked off ESA can have problems with housing benefit in the move to JSA, as claims get suspended – a problem that Sifa Fireside say in the report that they are seeing regularly with their clients.

    And to come next year is the introduction of Universal Credit, – which combines a range of benefits, and introduces a cap on total payments of £500/week for couples and families and £350/week for single people.

    This will affect many disabled people, as Birmingham Voluntary Services Council (BVSC) explain:

    Although disabled people receiving DLA will be excluded (a number which will fall through transition to PIP), other disabled people will lose out: 22 per cent of households affected will be in receipt of Employment and Support Allowance. It is estimated that the average affected family will lose £93 a week; 35 per cent will lose more than £100 per week

    Universal Credit also cuts the child disability addition by 50% (£26 from £53), unfairly penalising disabled children. BVSC say this makes child poverty targets “unachievable”. Family Aid say some families will lose £1366 per year due to this cut.

    One of Family Aid’s clients is Susan, who has a 6 month old son and is suffering from severe depression and delusion disorder.
    She lives in a privately rented property and receives ESA, child benefit and child tax credit, local housing allowance and council tax benefit. Susan finds making ends meet difficult due to rising food and fuel prices. Family Aid say

    without the Sure Start Maternity Grant she received she would not have been able to buy the things she needed for her new baby. She is concerned about the impact of changes to the amount of housing and council tax benefit support she receives. She says she often goes without to make sure her baby has the things he needs cutting spending on public transport, clothes, fruit and meat to balance her budget. She would like to go back to work when her baby is older and her health improves but barriers such as the reduction in childcare support make this prospect difficult.

    Family Aid raise the issue of monthly payments under Universal Credit making it more difficult for people with mental health difficulties to manage their budgets, with similar concerns being raised by Sifa Fireside for those with dependency issues. Midland Heart also say their residents have expressed concern about monthly budgeting, saying they often have trouble budgeting over a fortnight.

    All these cuts (and especially those to DLA) are predicated on the notion that the disability benefit system is full of fakers, fraudulently claiming for a condition that doesn’t exist. In fact benefit fraud for DLA is 0.5%, with IB/ESA at just 0.3%. These figures come from DWP and the level of fraud is decided by a process which takes a sample of claims and investigates them thoroughly to see where fraud occurs. This is not the amount of succesfully prosecuted fraud cases, but is a good estimate of total fraud based on a statistically significant sample of claims.

    With the coalition floating the idea that benefit payments should be frozen, and the link to raising benefits with inflation broken, now is the time to let them know that we won’t stand by as our welfare system is destroyed. Join us at the Tory Party Conference in Birmingham on Sunday 7th October and the TUC National Demonstration in London on Saturday 20th October.

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    Meeting on Sept 10th About Disabled People and Cuts Following Week of ATOS Protests

    Banner at the Closing ATOS Ceremony in London

    Banner at the Closing ATOS Ceremony in London

    This week, during the Paralympics, Disabled People Against the Cuts and UK Uncut teamed up for a week of action, dubbed the ATOS games. The occasion was chosen because ATOS are one of the main sponsors of the Paralympics, an association which led the TeamGB Paralympians to hide their ATOS branded lanyards during the opening ceremony earlier this week.

    Tuesday saw protests take place outside ATOS assessment centres around the UK, and today there was a big protest outside their HQ in London, which then moved to occupy the DWP offices in Westminster. All of this is in protest at the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) which is supposed to test people who are claiming disability benefits to see if they are fit for work, but is being used to push people off disability benefits, with targets to find 89% of people fit for work.
    This has led to many deaths, with 32 people a week dying after being found fit for work, and a host of tragic stories such as the Birmingham dad who died from his heart condition just three weeks after ATOS told him he was fit for work, or the cancer patient who died earlier this week just a few days after finding out her appeal was succesful.
    The British Medical Association has condemned the WCA as being unfit for purpose, and called for the government to radically overhaul the process so that it takes into account medical advice from doctors.

    ATOS Protest in Birmingham

    ATOS Protest in Birmingham

    This week’s protests have attracted a large amount of media attention, and brought the issue to a wider audience. Join us on Monday 10th September, at 6:30pm at the Unison Offices for a meeting about cuts and disabled people, with Linda Burnip from DPAC speaking followed by a discussion.

    The Unison offices are wheelchair accessible with accessible toilets. If you have any accessibility needs please contact us by email at BirminghamAgainstTheCuts@Gmail.com and we will do our best to ensure that you can fully access our meeting.

    The Unison Offices are on the 19th Floor, McClaren Tower, Priory Queensway, B4 7LR. The nearest train station is Moor Street which is around 200m away, with New Street about half a mile from the offices. Many buses stop along Moor Street Queensway, near the McClaren Tower.

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    Report and Photos From Today’s DPAC Demonstration at ATOS in Birmingham


    Around 20 people demonstrated today outside the ATOS assessment centre in Birmingham as part of a week of action protesting the Working Capability Assessment (WCA) which is run by ATOS for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and is supposed to assess whether someone on disability benefits is fit for work, but has come under large amounts of criticism for failing to do that – and in the process punishing many disabled people by pushing them off disability benefits onto unemployment benefits and workfare.

    The week of action is taking place during the Paralympics because ATOS are one of the main sponsors. Their core business is as an IT outsourcing company, but like Capita and Serco they have moved into taking all government outsourcing contracts. The contract to run the WCA is £100m/year – and we pay an additional £50m each year for the appeals process to correct the huge number of people that ATOS declare fit for work who go through the appeal process and have the decision reversed – a process that can take over a year.

    Around 40% of appeal are successful – a figure that rises to 70% for people who have advocates or legal advice. Many people go to CAB for this advice, but Birmingham residents will soon find their access restricted, as funding cuts mean that CAB will probably be closing all but the city centre branch. At the same time, legal aid is being cut for welfare & benefit appeals, firmly closing the door on disabled people accessing legal advice.

    In a recent Dispatches program, a doctor went undercover to record the training process for ATOS, and was told by his trainer that ESA (the new disability benefit brought in by New Labour in 2008 to replace Incapacity Benefit) and the WCA are designed to remove people from disability benefits, and that they expect ATOS to find 89% of people fit for work.
    The human cost of this target is huge, with 32 people a week dying after being declared fit for work. Many disabled people have died from their illness shortly after being told they are fit for work, including a local man who died of his heart condition just 3 weeks after ATOS told him he was fit to work.

    Talk to disabled people about ATOS and the one thing you will hear time and time again is fear. The fear strikes when the letter arrives calling you for assessment. This letter comes even if you have an incurable, unchanging or degenerative condition. The tests can happen annually, and some people even find themselves called for reassessment just weeks after they have had a successful appeal. Or it comes when you receive the ESA50 form to apply for the benefit, a big lump of paper, designed to scare and confuse, intended so that people will not complete it properly. If you’re filling one of these in, do get advice, especially if you have a variable condition.
    The fear continues as you wait for the assessment, knowing that doctors advice will be ignored in favour of a ticklist that doesn’t take into account variable conditions, doesn’t mention work and will award no points for manual dexterity if you can use one finger on one hand. (zero points means there is no problem).
    Fear stays there until you receive the letter telling you if you are fit for work or not. You might get put in the “support group” where it’s accepted that you aren’t going to be able to work. Or the “Work Related Activity Group” (WRAG), where they say you are fit for work of some kind with the right support (and if there were jobs available, or employers willing to take on someone who will need more time off than other people for medical appointments, or runs the risk of falling very ill very quickly.. but they don’t mention these barriers to employment of course). Or you get told you are fit for work and pushed off to JSA unemployment benefit.
    And the fear doesn’t stop then – the wait for the reassessment for those in the support and WRAG groups, the loss of income and support for those kicked off to JSA, the impending prospect of the Work Programme and workfare for those found fit for work (either in the WRAG group or like anyone else unemployed and on JSA), and the sanctions regime that has seen tens of thousands of disabled people lose benefits for up to 6 months.

    The fear needs to end, the WCA needs to be suspended now, and altered in a major way so that it is a fair assessment, and ATOS need to be removed from the contract.

    You can still take part in the ATOS games and help to make this happen:

    Tommorrow (Wed 29th), DPAC will deliver a coffin full of messages from you.

    On Thursday 30th: Phone jam! Let’s flood Atos with calls, and generate a Twitter-storm they can’t ignore! Click here for contact details

    Then on Friday 31st, join DPAC in London where they’re teaming up with UK Uncut for the Closing ATOS ceremony, at ATOS HQ in Triton Square, London from 12:45.

    For more information on these events, go to the DPAC website

    Thanks for the photos from @BrumProtestor on Twitter.

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    Disabled People Against Cuts Protest ATOS – August 28th

    Join The Atos Games!
    On your marks, get set…
    for a week of Paralympic fun and games against Atos!

    From Monday 27th to Friday 31st of August, join Disabled People Against Cuts for The Atos Games – five days of action against a company that’s sponsoring the Paralympics but wrecking disabled people’s lives.

    We are calling on disabled people, disabled activists, families, colleagues, friends and supporters to come together and fight back against Atos’s attacks. Atos represents as dangerous an opponent as any government, law or barrier the disability movement has faced in its long history. It’s not just welfare, but our very identity and our place within society that is under attack.

    And we are asking the whole of the anti-cuts movement to join us in our opposition to the company most responsible for driving through the government’s brutal cuts agenda. Let’s make it Games over for Atos!

    Read More from DPAC about these events, ATOS and the Paralympics

    Tuesday 28th, 1pm, by 5-ways in Birmingham – please note that 5-ways train station is not wheelchair accessible, and the nearest train stations are New Street, Moor Street or Snow Hill. Full details will be posted later. If you are on facebook, the best thing to do would be to join the facebook event where DPAC will publish updates.

    There are also actions taking place on others days in the week, including ones for people who are unable to attend the demos which are happening nationally on Tuesday 28th, or in London on Friday 31st – see the DPAC website for more details.

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    ATOS, Disabled People and the 2012 London Olympics

    The olympic torch comes through Birmingham tomorrow (30th June), and today we have a guest post by Linda from Disabled People Against Cuts:

    One might be forgiven for wondering just why and how ATOS ( ‘Licensed to Kill Disabled People’ by the Condems) and the corporate butchers of Bhopal Dow are two of the most prominent Olympic sponsors. How can such odious corporations be given worldwide publicity and credibility?

    In exchange for lucrative payments from the government ATOS happily continue to hound and harass disabled people into even further poverty and to drive many to suicide.

    Over 1 million disabled people, many too ill to work face losing their benefits or have already lost them. If you become ill or disabled in the future this could happen to you, even if you’ve worked and paid National Insurance contributions most of your life.

    People with life-threatening illnesses, some with terminal cancer, and mental health conditions live in fear of their forthcoming ATOS assessments acknowledged as totally flawed by CAB, McMillan Cancer charity and a host of others. The tick-box computer assessment system takes no account of real life problems people face or the complexity of many long-term illnesses and disabilities. Yet within minutes this process which violates the fundamental medical principle of ‘first do no harm’ can strip disabled people of essential benefits and rob them of their lives.

    Real-life horror stories of assessments and outcomes now abound and can be read in papers on an almost daily basis yet still the government refuse to halt or change these vicious tests. Some of the reports are little short of torture. A woman forced to try to walk to prove she couldn’t who fell onto the ground and had to be helped up again crying by her mother. Another woman forced to try to walk down a long corridor also to prove she couldn’t walk. People waiting for major heart surgery or those who have had numerous heart attacks killed by the stress of the assessments and being told they are fit to work.

    A Grimsby Fisherman suffering from horrendous blood clots and open ulcers and struggles to walk who has been told by specialists at two hospitals he would be risking his life if he went back to work lost his disability benefits.
    A more recent case is that of a Dundee man found fit to work who is deaf, blind and tube-fed and who needs 24 hour care. How could anyone with such profound impairments be found fit to work?

    Yet this is how ATOS treats disabled people.

    The BMA Local Medical Committee Conference recently voted unanimously for an end to these notorious Work Capability Assessments as Scottish GPs did earlier this year. Dr Stephen Carty has likened the UK Government’s welfare reform crackdown on disabled people to the “barbarism” of the Nazis.

    The cost of these sometimes murderous assessments to the taxpayer are enormous as appeals rocket costing a predicted £50 million in tribunal costs in 2012 alone. The backlog of cases has reached epidemic proportions with tribunals sitting even on Sundays to try to reduce the 10 month backlog of cases. Yet even if a claimant wins their appeal against their assessment, and most do, the treadmill experience of being retested can start again immediately for no justifiable reasons.

    As the blood of disabled people continues to drip steadily from the hands of our Olympic sponsors they should hang their heads in shame at the terror they are causing to those who deserve support not victimisation from our welfare state.

    If you would like to join us in expressing your disgust at ATOS and its sponsorship of our Olympics then please email their CEO at Thiery Breton at thierry.breton@atos.net (http://www.ceoemail.com/se.php?id=10159)

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    Photos and report from todays Action Against ATOS

    15 people joined a demonstration in Birmingham today as a part of a national day of action against ATOS, called by Benefit Claimants Fight Back, and supported by a host of disability and welfare campaign and support groups.
    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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    National Day of Action Against ATOS – Friday 30th Sept

    My DLA was stolen

    Photo by Lisy Babe on Flickr

    Friday, September 30
    Everywhere!
    In Birmingham from 12noon-2pm. There will be a demonstration and leafleting outside of Five Ways House, Islington Row (by Five Ways train station). ATOS use part of this building to carry out their work assessments, but most of the building is used by DWP. We will also leaflet five ways train station, and may move into the city centre later if the people who are present feel that would be a better place to be.

    Invite people to the Facebook event to let them know this is happening.

    We have written previously about ATOS, before the previous week of action, so read why you should come on this protest in this post. Those of you who have attended our public meetings will have heard disabled people speak about the attacks this government are making on them, and the role ATOS plays within that. Anyone who heard Sam speak at our meeting earlier this month will know how important it is to support this event.
    That is why we have teamed up with DPACand Enable (a University based disability campaigning group) to organise this demonstration.

    Stop Atos mugging disabled people

    Photo by Lisy Babe on Flickr - click photo for gallery

    For some more information about ATOS which has occurred since my previous post, read this post from Benefit Claimants Fightback, which I am reproducing. There are actions happening all around the UK, so if you are reading this and want to do something, there might be something local to you – or you could join the online actionand prepare yourself for the next day of action.

     

    Take Action Against Atos Origin and the Poverty Pimps on the 30th September 2011.

    We aren’t going anywhere!

    Click for the Facebook Event for the National Action

    Atos Origin have £300 million contract with the Con-dem Government to continue carrying out ‘work capability assessments’.

    It is claimed assessments are to test what people can do rather than what they can’t. The real purpose is to strip benefits from as many people as possible.

    This testing system has already led to people with terminal illnesses and severe medical conditions being declared fit for work and having benefits cut. GP’s are ignored in favour of decisions made by Atos Origin’s computer.

    Plans announced for the scrapping of Disability Living Allowance have also revealed that this intrusive testing is likely to be extended to everyone on some form of disability or health related benefit.

    To date around 40% of appeals against Atos Origin’s decisions have been successful. [DPAC say that up to 70% of appeals in which people are represented have been successful.]

    Atos have now extended their harassment of sick and disabled by using legal threats to silence websites which have been critical of them

    Organise and take action on the 30th September! Please list details in the comments below or email notowelfarecuts@yahoo.co.uk and we’ll try maintain a list here.

    A list of Atos Origins locations can be found here

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