Save Our Public Services

Local activity/protests against welfare changes and attacks on disabled people
Saturday 20th Oct, Town centre petitioning - spreading the message against cuts

About 30 disabled people and supporters took part in a peaceful protest outside ATOS's offices (the private company who implement flawed Work Capability Assessments on behalf of the government) in Kings Heath at midday on August 28th.  The BBC and local Press were also in attendance, and interviewed some of those present to learn of their treatment at the hands of ATOS.  These assessments have been condemned by the British Medical Association, who've asked for them to cease immediately, as the assessments are often carried out by staff who are not qualified doctors.

A number of organisations sent representatives to the protest, including  the 'Disabled People Against Cuts' campaign (DPAC), local Residents’ Associations from St James and Kings Heath, and unions. The demonstration took place between 11.30 and 1.30 midday, and attracted a great deal of support from passing drivers along Gladstone road, who waved and hooted in solidarity and sympathy. A deputation from the demonstration delivered a cardboard ‘Gold Medal’ to the ATOS offices, in recognition of ATOS top-line hypocrisy in helping to fund the paralympic games while at the same time depriving many disabled people of their benefits. ATOS were initially reluctant to accept their award, particularly as several demonstrators wanted a receipt for so valuable a prize, but eventually were pleased enough with it to give a receipt.

The so-called ‘assessment tests’ that people are given by ATOS are not medical tests, as you might suppose, but are done by a computer program and staff who are not medically qualified. The British Medical Association wants these false tests to be ended immediately. But because the gov't wants to take money from the most vulnerable in society, the tests continue.
The Atos staff are encouraged to fix a very high ‘fit for work’ pass rate, so as to ensure maximum savings for the government. While those judged ‘fit to work’ can appeal, this can take many months, and in the meantime their benefits are withdrawn. There have been some dreadful cases of people who are terribly crippled being declared ‘fit for work’. Some have committed suicide, and many have died of their illnesses after being declared ‘fit for work’.

For those who are interested in what is behind these attempts on the part of the government and its agencies to denigrate the disabled, there is a very good reasoned explanation here on the link below. This learned article requires a focused attention span, but is well worth the reading, even if you have to read it, as I did several times, in order to fully appreciate the extent to which certain illogical ideas have permeated current governmental thinking.

Even for those who may be capable of work, where is the work? With thousands of young people looking for jobs, and anyone over 50 finding it very difficult to find work, where are the jobs for disabled people? Many partially-disabled people would warmly welcome the chance of a job, but no work is available. Nor is the government making any available.

Local news links:

For more information about similar protests/activities see:

 Protest at the Government's use of private company ATOS to test disabled people

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