New Internationalist

Paralympic sponsor deemed ‘not fit to work’


Atos sponsors the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Photo: Stuart Grout, reproduced under a CC license.
British anti-austerity renegades UK Uncut have partnered with the equally formidable Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC) to take action against Atos, the Paralympic Games’ most controversial sponsor.

Both groups are promising ‘plenty of surprises’ as they attempt to shut down Atos’ head quarters in central London with the ‘Closing Atos Ceremony’, on Friday 31 August.

‘We’re not against the Paralympics,’ UK Uncut and DPAC said in a statement. ‘We are against the hypocrisy of Atos’ involvement, when they may soon be removing disability benefits from the people winning medals for Britain.’

Atos is the company paid by the British government to conduct Work Capability Assessments (WCAs). These tests are meant to help the Department of Work and Pensions decide who is ‘fit to work’ and who isn’t as part of cuts to the welfare bill.

The assessments have been a great source of anger and despair, with many decisions that people are fit to work being overturned, and allegations of target chasing for the amount of people found eligible for benefits.

In April, the Daily Mirror reported that last year 1,100 claimants died after being determined capable of ‘work related activity’.

The British Medical Association has suggested that the computer based system used in WCAs should be scrapped altogether. In July, two disabled people were granted a judicial review against the Secretary for Work and Pensions to challenge the way the assessments work.

Paddy Murphy, a spokesperson from DPAC said: ‘By sponsoring the Paralympics, Atos is trying to give the impression of supporting disabled people. Don’t be fooled. This is just another opportunity for them to ‘cash-in’.

‘We are challenging Atos in the courts, in parliament, online, on the streets and now at the Paralympics. The Work Capability Assessment must end now.’

DPAC and UK Uncut have history. In January, they blocked roads at Oxford Circus to resist the Welfare Reform Bill aimed at overhauling the NHS. They have said the Atos action will be just as ‘audacious, daring and disruptive.’

The event at Atos HQ is part of a five-day day flurry of activity called the Atos Games, led by DPAC from Monday 27 August. This includes a spoof Paralympic awards ceremony, the delivery of a coffin full of messages to Atos’ doorstep, flooding the company with calls, and regional actions on Tuesday 28 August.

Protests are taking place in Plymouth, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Birmingham and Sheffield, among others. DPAC are also encouraging people to use the Atos Stories plays as part of their events.

Kat Templeton, a UK Uncut activist, said the attack on welfare provision punishes ordinary people for a crisis they didn’t cause. ‘It’s about making disabled people pay, instead of super-rich tax dodgers who cost us over £25 billion (approximately $39 billion) every year. This is an ideological attack on the welfare state; these cuts are a political choice.’

DPAC is asking the whole anti-cuts movement to join them in the Atos Games against a company, and a government, they see as not only reducing the amount of independence and resources people with disabilities have, but also attacking their identity and place in society.

The Atos Closing Ceremony will be on Friday 31 August at Atos HQ, Triton Square, London and will start at 12.45pm. For more information about that and the regional events see the DPAC website.

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