Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/732/15169
London Paralympics; protests against disability cuts: "Atos kills, kill Atos!"
"Atos kills, kill Atos" could be heard up and down Victoria Street outside the Department for Works and Pensions (DWP) as campaigners occupied the building as part of a week of protest against cuts to disabled people's benefits.
Atos has been in the firing line for its central role in the Con-Dems' brutal treatment of disabled people. Atos, formerly an IT contracting company, won £3 billion of contracts to assess disabled people for receipt of state benefits.
The Tories have vowed to cut £18 billion from the welfare budget and have subcontracted the dirty work of pushing people off vital benefits to Atos at a cost of £100 million a year.
The impact of a negative assessment by Atos is devastating. Aggressive Atos assessments are driving some disabled people to suicide while over 1,000 people have died following the withdrawal of benefits. A final insult to disabled people was Atos' sponsorship of the Paralympic Games.
On Friday 31 August hundreds gathered in protest outside the Atos headquarters in Euston, London. At the same time activists from Disabled People Against the Cuts, supported by the Socialist Party, occupied the DWP head office and called for an end to Atos assessments of disabled people.
The occupation was led by disabled people, many in wheelchairs. These activists showed incredible bravery in the face of a brutal police response. While eight activists occupied the foyer of the DWP head office, roughly 200 people gathered outside. Without warning police from the Territorial Support Group waded into the protesters outside. One disabled person suffered a dislocated shoulder and had to be taken away in an ambulance.
The battle against Atos and disability cuts must be stepped up - especially in light of the latest threat which would mean any disabled person who the DWP decides isn't taking sufficient steps towards getting back to work will lose a devastating £71 a week.
Disabled people in Sheffield put on a united front against the government's chosen Paralympics sponsor. Protesters from the city's branch of UK Uncut, Disabled People Against Cuts and the Mental Health Action Group stormed the steps outside Hartshead Square's Jobcentre Plus, home to Atos healthcare offices, ahead of the start of the Paralympics.
David Kirkham, UK Uncut in Sheffield, delivered an impassioned speech to crowds of disabled people, carers, families and campaigners at the protest dubbed the 'Atos closing ceremony'. He said: "Atos is an unfit-for-work private sector company charged with stopping money and benefits for vulnerable and disabled people in this country.
"The Paralympics is about being the best you can be but the government and Atos are using that to point the finger at disabled people. We have doctors who take a holistic approach to sickness and disability. Instead that is being replaced with a 15-minute box-checking test."
As if to prove the point of the protest, a woman came out of Atos' office and took the mike saying: "I've just walked out of my interview because they don't know what they're doing." Pointing to her files of papers she said: "I've got letters here from my doctor and consultant from the last two years, yet Atos is trying to say I'm fit for work."
Sheffield Socialist Party members
In The Socialist 5 September 2012:
Fight the cuts
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Countering the far-right
Socialist Party reports and campaigns
Socialist Party workplace news