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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  1. #2 martyn lewis 22 Aug 12

    why would the country provide benefits for those winning medals.Surely if anyone is fit enough to win medals they are fit enough to work, otherwise a great campaign.

  2. #4 Roger Jenkins 23 Aug 12

    Yawn, boring. Surely you can come up with something new, not the same tired old re-hash of other journalists?

  3. #5 jeffrey davies 23 Aug 12

    good luck but atos and this goverment are in it together to rid the system of benefit claiments it doesnt matter that you ill or disabled its so bloody maddening that they got people calling us scroungers when its them the politicians who do the scrounging and robbing of their system of money jeff3

  4. #6 John McCallum 26 Aug 12

    Partner had an assessment in April 2010. Report said that she would be fit to return to work within 12 months. Two months later, she had a serious event and rushed to hospital. Diagnosed officially with MS even although another hospital and GP knew 5 years previously but failed to tell us. Assessor missed INO and other signs. Checked BMA online register of doctors for assessors qualifications - basic medical qualification. Assessor is registered but is not on either GP or specialist register. So what is she? Report submitted was 22 pages long and apparently took 10 minutes to write. Reliable report? I think not!

  5. #7 Yes minister 31 Aug 12

    In the Netherlands the train company (NS) deported Jews during WWII. After the war they apologized for this.

    Whose putting a gun to the head of Atos though to do these assessments?

    That’s right, nobody.

    So, all their marketing speak about being innocent: at the end of the day they are still making millions of pounds. For what? It’s an absolute outrage and poor judgment that the Paralympic committee allowed this to happen. They should step down.

    Many people have trained hard for the Paralympics. It hurts to see it be going through this.

    Cannot imagine doing business with Atos, or any similar company any time soon. Not at this rate. Nor should anybody with a moral fiber in their body. This company deserves to be boycotted, and brought to a court for their role in this.

    Our hearts and support are with the people suffering in Great Britain, as well as with the athletes.

    It is a shock to read that this can happen in a country such as GB. It truly is. One can do nothing else, but condemn it. This is nothing short of a humanitarian disaster, and flagrant breaking of civil rights.

    Wishing hope for a better and brighter future.
    Nothing about us without us.
    Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

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About the author

Amy Hall a New Internationalist contributor

Amy Hall is a journalist from Cornwall, now based in Brighton, England. Her particular interests include activism, community, social justice and the environment as well as arts and culture. She previously produced and presented the New Internationalist podcast and has written for publications including The Guardian, The Ecologist and Red Pepper. She currently works at the Institute of Development Studies.

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