22 Aug 2012

PROTESTS about ATOS and cuts to disability benefits

On Wednesday 29th August and Saturday 1st September. Please join Stroud Against the Cuts on two upcoming protests they have organised to coincide with the Paralympics - the Games are being sponsored by ATOS Healthcare – the company responsible for taking benefits and support away from people with disabilities (http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2012/may/21/paralympic-games-organisers-defend-atos-sponsorship).

They will meet at 12noon on Wednesday 29th August outside Stroud JobCentre, in the Cornhill (Union St) over lunchtime – 12 noon till 2pm. They will meet again at 11am on Saturday 1st  September on Stroud High Street. On both occasions they will be leafleting the public with our new flyer on the Government’s attacks on people living with disabilities.

Click on 'read more' for more details from Stroud Against the Cuts on the background to the protests and those that are taking place elsewhere:

A letter written by a member of Stroud Against the Cuts, Gabriel Parlour, was recently published in the Guardian regarding Atos Healthcare, http://blacktrianglecampaign.org/2012/08/06/disabled-people-face-persecution-letters-to-the-guardian-sunday-5th-august-2012/, in reference to recent TV programs, the BBC’s Panaroma screened a program entitled ‘Disabled or faking it’ http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01lldrc, while Channel 4 broadcast ‘Britain on the Sick’ http://www.channel4.com/programmes/dispatches/episode-guide/series-117/episode-1. Both programs used undercover techniques to reveal the behavior of ATOS.

Our protests in Stroud coincide with the “five days of action against a company that’s sponsoring the Paralympics but wrecking disabled people’s lives” organised by Disabled People Against Cuts and UKUncut. Protests are planned in Cardiff, Plymouth, Manchester, Birmingham, Sheffield, Bournemouth, Northampton, Liverpool, Swansea, Lancaster, Southampton and London. For full details see: http://www.dpac.uk.net/2012/08/latest-information-on-atos-games-week/. Campaigners are holding spoof Paralympic awards ceremonies, visiting their local Atos offices and plan to flood Atos with phone calls on Thursday 30th August. On Friday 31 August, UK Uncut and DPAC will be shutting down Atos’ London HQ for a “Closing ATOS Ceremony” (see: http://www.ukuncut.org.uk/blog/the-closing-atos-ceremony).

Atos have been doing the government’s dirty work as it conducts Work Capability Assessments (WCA) for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). Campaigners argue the company is arbitrarily cutting the number of people in receipt of disability benefits in order to achieve government targets in benefit cuts. Recently, the National Audit Office criticized the company and published data revealing that nearly four out of ten appeals against decisions to declare people ‘fit-for-work’ successful. See: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/aug/17/nao-criticises-atos-benefits-contract. A recent episode of Channel 4’s undercover program Dispatches found that, although the official line is that there are no targets, assessors are under pressure not to put more than 12 per cent of claimants into the ‘support’ group. See: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/jul/27/disability-benefit-assessors-film

Meanwhile, Atos’s Chief Executive, Thierry Breton, is reported as having been awarded a £1 million bonus recently, bringing his personal income from the last year to about £1.95 million. See: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/atos-fatcat-lands-1m-bonus-941601.

A variety of groups have been campaigning against Atos, for instance: the ‘Atos Victims Group’ (http://atosvictimsgroup.co.uk), the ‘Black Triangle Campaign’ (http://blacktrianglecampaign.org/ “established to galvanise opposition to the current vicious attack on the fundamental human rights of disabled people by the Government of the United Kingdom”), ‘The Hardest Hit’ (thehardesthit.wordpress.com “fighting cuts to support for disabled people”) and ‘Disabled People Against Cuts’ (www.dpac.uk.net/ “fighting for justice and human rights for all disabled people at a time of austerity and welfare cuts”).

Stroud Against the Cuts will be campaigning more on cuts to disability benefits and ATOS Healthcare in the next few months. Please get in touch if you would like to help those working on this campaign, or come along to the SATC meeting tomorrow night.

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