In the 8am chill this morning activists from Brent demonstrated outside the offices of ATOS in Neasden Lane as part of a nationwide protest against the impact of ATOS assessments on disabled and unwell claimants. Individuals came from Kilburn Boycott Workfare, Kilburn Unemployed Workers, Unite the Community, Brent Green Party and Brent Fightback.
Motorists and pedestrians passing by were generally sympathetic and warmed our hearts if not our fingers.
This is from the organisers' website:
Statement of Intent – We oppose the reported ill-treatment by ATOS of those receiving sickness benefits. We are calling for the abolition of the Work Capability Assessment which is not fit for purpose. We believe that a qualified medical doctor, ideally the GP who regularly sees and treats the sick or disabled individual in question, is the only person able to decide if an individual is fit for work. These peaceful demonstrations will include a minutes silence at 1pm to honour the victims of Iain Duncan Smiths callous reforms.
On February 19th protesters will gather peacefully at the locations used by ATOS to carry out the discredited Work Capability Assessments. Many will provide a live stream which can be viewed on the campaigns webpage http://ukrebellion.com/atosdemo/. The event has attracted a wide range of high profile speakers from politicians to celebrities. The largest demonstration is taking place in the ATOS Head Office, 4 Triton Square, Regent’s Place, London, NW1 3HG London, United Kingdom from 10:00 to 16:00and included the following speakers
Ian Jones – WOW Petition
Paula Peters – DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts)
Theresa Coles – Atos Miracles
Natalie Bennett – Leader – Green Party
Sonia Poulton – Journalist
Natalie Bennett said:
ATOS activities in the UK are a further, dreadful, example of the government’s failed outsourcing experiment. They have inflicted misery and fear on millions of people, and this must end. The medical professionals who treat them are the people who should decide on individuals’ capacity to work. We shouldn’t be pumping public money into the private profits of this health multinational. And we should remember: behind ATOS is the callous government policy of cutting social security payments to vulnerable people. We must ensure everybody who needs social security payments receives enough for a decent quality of life.Caroline Lucas Green MP for Brighton was speaking at the demonstration planned in her constituency. She said:
Outsourcing the assessment of sick, disabled and vulnerable people to a private corporation, and especially one with such a disgraceful track record as Atos is disgusting…. Ministers have so far refused to take action to get rid of ATOS and their thoroughly discredited Work Capability Assessments. The day of action on February 19th is a chance to stand strong together against companies like ATOS until they are a thing of the past. I’ll be there and will do what I can to keep the issue alive in Parliament.In Hull Labour MP Karl Turner MP and Green party Chair Martin Deane will attend and speak.
ATOS are clearly worried about the impact the demonstrations will have on their already tarnished reputation. One central claim they make is that
“We have no targets in relation to the outcome of benefit claims either at an individual or overall level.”
This clearly flies in the face of the revelations made by whistle-blower Greg Wood who lifted the lid on the toxic culture in the organisation and the recent report published by the centre for welfare reform “How Norms Become Targets: Investigating the real reason for the misery of ‘fit for work’ assessments” by Kaliya Franklin which demonstrates how targets to find people fit for work regardless of their individual circumstances have taken root in the organisation.