This is a guest post by Damien Joyce, a UK Uncut supporter
If you think it’s wrong for a multinational company to make profits by stripping severely ill and disabled people of their benefits, and driving some to suicide in the process, then on Friday 30th September you should Occupy Atos.
To help push through its welfare cuts programme the government is paying Atos, a corporation that specialises in IT services, £300 million to re-test 1.6 million people who are on incapacity benefit. Anyone who fails the test has their benefits cut or is forced to find a job.
Before Atos got its hands on our welfare system, sickness tests were done by real doctors. But Atos has shareholders to please, and doctors are a cost that cuts into its profits. So to make sure it can process 11,000 people a week with maximum efficiency, Atos uses a seriously dodgy computerised testing programme that even the government admits is flawed.
The test is so dodgy, 40% of appeals against decisions to cut benefits are successful, and this rises to 70% when claimants are represented by experts. According to the Guardian and the Scottish Herald, some people have died from their illnesses soon after the test has found them able to work.
Leading mental health charities say the prospect of being re-tested is having “devastating effects on hundreds of thousands of people,” and that there have already been cases where “people have taken their own life following problems with changes to their benefits.”
Despite its horrific consequences the testing continues and thousands of people who shouldn’t work – some of them severely disabled, or with major illnesses like lung cancer and cerebral palsy – are being declared fit, stripped of vital benefits and told to get a job.
All this in the name of paying down the deficit. Yet the financial crash and the hole it blew in our public finances were caused by super-rich City boys and the politicians who let them spin out of control. It had nothing to do with people on incapacity benefit, the vast majority of whom want to work but are forced to live in poverty because of their medical conditions.
So why should sick and disabled people be made to pay for the bankers’ crisis when clearly the culprits can afford to?
The coalition is cutting our welfare system by £4.5 billion a year. This compares to the £14 billion that bankers paid themselves in bonuses last year, the £20 billion that would be raised by a tiny Robin Hood Tax on the City each year, and the £70 billion a year that could be reclaimed by stopping companies like Barclays and HSBC from dodging their taxes.
Atos has testing centres all over the UK, so this Friday 30th September link up with disability campaigners and join an action, or why not organise one yourself if there isn’t one near you? They’re happening at lunchtime so people who are working can take part. You could even get creative – how about turning the tables on Atos and performing a ‘computer says no’ test in its offices, or transforming them into a shrine that miraculously cures sick and disabled people…?
However you want to do it, be sure to go and Occupy Atos!