Press release: Disabled activists and UK Uncut increase pressure on Atos


Disabled activists and UK Uncut increase pressure on Paralympic sponsor Atos as hundreds protest across the country

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Press enquiries:

UK Uncut: Tel: 07415063231 | Email: ukuncut@gmail.com | DPAC: Tel: 07508 983 610 | Email: maildpac.uk.net

Over 600 people are expected to attend the ‘The Closing Atos Ceremony’ the grand finale to a week of protests targeting Paralympic sponsor Atos. This Friday at 12.45pm, Disabled People Against the Cuts [1] and UK Uncut [2] have vowed to shut down Atos’ HQ at Triton Square in Central London; promising creative direct action and ‘plenty of surprises’ [3] . Disabled people will be travelling from all over the country to take part.

The pressure on Atos is reaching boiling point, following a week of protest against the Paralympic sponsor. Disabled activists have spear-headed the week of action, dubbed ‘The Atos Games’ [4] , in protest against the company in charge of removing disability and sickness benefits and enforcing the government’s welfare cuts. On Wednesday, a memorial service was held in London outside the Atos head office, to remember the people who have lost their lives at the hands of Atos Healthcare [5] . In Cardiff, 40 campaigners lay in the road as corpses and blocked a major city centre road for over an hour. Leeds, Hull and Sheffield saw campaigners highlighted the alternative of stopping tax avoidance, instead of removing people’s vital benefits [6]. Whilst inside the stadium, British athletes covered up their Atos emblazoned lanyards in protest at their involvement as sponsors of the Games.

Tara Flood, a gold-winning former Paralympian [7] has come out in support of the campaign saying: “It is a shocking irony that Atos is a main sponsor of London 2012 whilst destroying disabled people’s lives on behalf of the government.”

Atos have come under fierce scrutiny for their handling of the Department of Work and Pensions £100 million a year contract, assessing whether claimants for incapacity benefits are ‘fit for work’. Last year 1,100 claimants died while under compulsory work-related activity for benefit [8]; and a number of those found ‘fit for work’ and left without income have committed or attempted suicide [9]. A recent episode of Dispatches [10] revealed Atos staff being pressured into unfairly declaring people ‘fit for work’ in order to fulfil targets.

The British Medical Association [11], disabled groups, and MPs [12] have all demanded the work capability assessments end with immediate effect. The High Court also recently granted permission for two disabled people to bring a claim for judicial review against the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, challenging the operation of the WCA [13].

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. They receive hundreds of millions of pounds while many disabled people are being forced to live in abject poverty because of their decisions. This is just another opportunity for them to ‘cash-in’. But we aren’t going to let them off the hook. We will make sure everyone knows what they are about.’

Lisa Cunningham, a UK Uncut activist said:

‘People directly affected by Atos assessments are making their anger and fear heard through an act of creative and disruptive civil disobedience. UK Uncut will be joining them to demand an end to Atos’ inhumane tests. The Government’s cuts are killing the economy, and in the case of the cuts to welfare enforced by Atos, they are killing people.

We’re not against the Paralympics. We are against the hypocrisy of Atos’ involvement, when they may soon be removing disability benefits from the people winning medals for Britain.’

ENDS

Notes to editors:

Disabled people who have undergone Atos’ WCA are available to talk to the media, please contact the UK Uncut media phone for details.

Please contact UK Uncut or DPAC for more details about other events and actions during the week.

[1] DPAC is a volunteer campaign network of and for disabled people campaigning for equality and human rights for all disabled people: dpac.uk.net/about

[2] UK Uncut is a grassroots anti-cuts direct action network, well-known for targeting corporate tax avoidance: ukuncut.org

[3] https://www.facebook.com/events/217652368360892/

[4] http://ukuncut.org/blog/the-atos-games

[5] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-19418990

[6] http://www.itv.com/news/calendar/update/2012-08-28/protests-over-planned-cuts-to-disability-benefits/

[7] After representing GB at three Paralympic Games, Tara retired from competitive swimming in 1992 when she achieved a World Record in 50m Breaststroke at the Barcelona Games – a record that still stands.

[8] http://blogs.mirror.co.uk/investigations/2012/04/32-die-a-week-after-failing-in.html

[9] http://poultonblog.dailymail.co.uk/2012/03/people-are-choosing-suicide-to-escape-poverty-is-this-the-states-final-solution.html

[10] http://www.channel4.com/programmes/dispatches/articles/britain-on-the-sick-reporter-feature

[11] http://bma.org.uk/news-views-analysis/news/2012/june/scrap-work-capability-assessment-doctors-demand

[12] www.parliament.uk/edm/2012-13/295

[13] http://atosvictimsgroup.co.uk/2012/07/26/judicial-review-of-work-capability-assessment-granted/