Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/672/12112
The Socialist 25 May 2011 |
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Atos Origin - profiting from pain
Les Woodward, Remploy Trade Union National Convenor
Disabled people are extremely angry with Steve Cram for accepting the post of 'ambassador' for big business privatisers Atos Origin in their capacity as IT partner for the London 2012 Olympics.
Steve Cram is a legend in the athletics world, being the first man to run 1,500 metres in less than three minutes 30 seconds. Atos Origin is also famous, or more correctly infamous, in disability circles as the company contracted by the DWP to deliver assessments for disability-related benefits such as Disability Living Allowance.
Atos secured the multi-million pound DWP contracts with huge financial incentives to reduce the numbers of disabled people claiming benefits. There have been demonstrations around the country outside Atos offices against the arbitrary way the company deals with benefits claims from severely disabled people.
There are very many criticisms. The process is impersonal, people felt their dignity was being taken away from them, no medical evidence is taken into account. But the biggest criticism is that the process does not recognise mental health issues at all.
Steve Cram reported in the Guardian (8/5/2007) that: "Paralympic athletes deserve as much respect as the able-bodied." Many disabled people wish he would show the same sentiments for disabled people, some of whom are the most vulnerable members of society and also some of the poorest.
Steve Cram MBE, also known as "The Jarrow Arrow" has had a career born from his success on track, becoming Chancellor of the University of Sunderland in 2008 and has a reputation as a motivational speaker at social events. He is also an athletics pundit and writes for the Guardian.
His living standards contrast starkly with the lifestyle of poverty, imprisonment at home and hopelessness that Cram's paymasters mete out to working class people with disabilities every day of the week.
It is sickening that Atos gets paid a bonus for getting disabled people, very many with life-threatening or even terminal illnesses off the benefits register, causing untold misery hardship and yes, even death.
There have been suicides from people who feel they are no longer valued by society, and that life imprisonment in their own home is too much to bear or feel that the choices of whether to eat or heat the house just aren't worth the hassle of making.
There is a campaign by disabled people's organisations to get Steve Cram to change his mind. But no one knows how lucrative this deal with the devil is to him so I would advise people not to hold their breath.
Les Woodward and a group of other Remploy workers are attending the National Shop Stewards Network anti-cuts conference in London on 11 June