I would like make to be clear to everybody that nobody would like to be a disabled person what their circumstances were they are not to be blamed or be made scapegoats and to learn that this coalition cutting benefits to the most vulnerable in societyvia Atos who won the government contact to review disabled people who recieves Disabled Living Allowance is not acceptable nor should anybody be discriminated because of the race, sexuality, religious believes or disabilities as this is defined as a hate crime.
On the opening day of the Paralympic Games, Remploy workers and supporters protested outside Stratford Station following the closure of 27 Remploy factories last week. Few of the disabled workers who lost their jobs will ever work again.
Remploy was established to make it possible for disabled people to do useful and productive work. The nearest factory to the protest at Stratford, Remploy Barking, one of the 27 that was shut down by the government last week, produced printed circuit boards and electrical assemblies, as well as recycling used computers. Remploy enabled disabled workers and those with special health conditions to do useful jobs, providing opportunities that are simply not otherwise available. When some Remploy factories were cut by the previous government, 80% of all the disabled workers were unable to find jobs, and given the current economic position the situation for those who lost their jobs last week is even bleaker.
Originally Remploy was set up to give jobs to men and women who had been injured fighting for their country in the Second World War – just the kind of ex-servicemen who now make up a significant proportion of our Paralympic Team GB. The protesters, including Phil Davies of the GMB, secretary of the Remploy Consortium of trade unions, handed out an Olympic-themed leaflet pointing out that the “Remploy workers are the most vulnerable in society and will face a lifetime of poverty and in some cases isolation” and calling for the public “not only to support the athletes but also to spare a thought for Remploy disabled workers by writing to the Prime Minister and objecting to how disabled people are being treated.”
The front of the leaflet had the text ‘We are NOT going for Gold, We are Condemned to Dole’ and the five Olympic rings were labelled ‘Unemployment, Discrimination, Poverty, Ill Health and Death.
Remploy workers stepped up their actions last week with an occupation of Remploy’s head office in Leicester last Thursday, only ended when the disabilities minister Maria Miller promised fresh talks. A five-day strike begins at Remploy Chesterfield next Monday and a four-day strike in Glasgow.
The hypocrisy of the government which was red-carpeting disabled athletes while throwing loyal Remploy workers on the dole was exposed before the world.
GMB member Brian Davies won four swimming medals at the 1982 Oslo Paralympic Games but lost his job a fortnight ago when the Remploy factory in Wigan closed.
It is just one of 27 factories being closed by the government by the end of the year throwing more than 2,000 workers on the dole, about 1,700 of them disabled.
A further nine factories face an uncertain future. The remaining 18 sites are due to close or be sold-off next year.
Outside Stratford rail station Mr Davies was joined by Remploy workers also facing the sack who gave out leaflets to passing members of the public.
Since the announcement of the closures was made – called by many the government’s most unkindest cut of all – there has been a massive wave of public support at protests, demos and strike picket lines.
Further protests are planned including a week of strike action from Monday at Chesterfield and Springburn in Glasgow.
GMB national secretary Phil Davies said: “If some axe-grinding disabled charities had their way and followed their own logic there would be no Paralympic Games – since they would be branded as segregated.
“It was this dogmatic logic that led them to call for Remploy factories to be closed on the grounds that segregation was demeaning.”
Protesters gathered at the French company’s UK Head Quarters in central London this afternoon to commemorate the thousands of people who have died after being declared fit to work. Disabled People Against Cuts activists also marched on Atos offices in Cardiff, Glasgow and Belfast as part of a week of direct action dubbed the Atos Games.
Paralympic organisers defended the controversial sponsorship deal after being asked by journalists why a company hated by so many disabled people had been allowed to associate with the Games. “Without the sponsors there would be no Games,” said Jackie Brock-Doyle.
Atos has two lucrative benefits contracts with the Department of Work Pensions. Its 1,400 doctors, nurses and physiotherapists carry out the much maligned Work Capability Assessments used to decide whether an individual is fit for work immediately, in the medium term or not at all. This contract is worth £110m a year to Atos, and the appeals cost the taxpayer another £60m a year.
The impact of wrongly being declared fit to work can be enormous. Philip Bayes, 36, a former council road sweeper, was retired on medical grounds after reconstructive foot surgery left him unable to stand or walk properly.
Yet he was declared fit to work by Atos last year who awarded him zero points and according to his family, refused to look at the occupational health report which had declared him unfit. His ESA was immediately stopped and even though the appeal overturned this after considering the report several months later, the whole experience left him severely depressed, said his mother Christine Bayes, 64, from south London.
“He’s threatened to kill himself because he doesn’t want to be a burden on us all, we’ve been very worried. He needs an explanation about why that first assessment happened like it did.” She has referred the nurse to the NMC.
Atos has just been awarded a £400m contract to carry out mobility assessments on people currently on Disability Living Allowance. The government wants to reduce this bill by 20 per cent as it moves people on to Personal Independence Payments.
Former Gold medal Paralympian, Tara Flood, chief executive of the charity Alliance for Inclusive Education, told The Independent that if her mobility allowance is cut after her Atos assessment next year, she will no longer be able to work.
The biggest turnout from the DPAC protests is expected at the Atos Games closing ceremony on Friday when former Paralympians are expected to attend.
Jenny Sealey, the Opening Ceremony’s artistic director who is deaf, said: “If the budget [for the ceremony] was over inflated I would feel very very uncomfortable knowing what is happening around cuts for deaf and disabled people.
“Because the disability movement has been so hard, there have been so many battles, if we boycotted it we would just fade away. We would be ghettoised all over again. So the Paras is monumentally important to remind people that we are here, we have rights. Our whole production is about rights and reasons. We have a world stage to communicate those rights.”
The Paralympic Games’ slogan is “inspire a generation” but life under Atos is killing us, disability campaigners warned today in a desperate plea to end its tick-box tests.
Disabled People Against Cuts demonstrators carried a coffin outside the multinational’s London headquarters, reading messages to Atos and memorials for people who have died after being subjected to the government’s hated work capability assessments (WCA) that are carried out by the corporation.
Meanwhile in Cardiff hundreds of protesters held a mass “die-in” around welfare pioneer Aneurin Bevan’s statue, representing disabled people’s deaths from stress, exhaustion or even suicide after dealing with Atos.
And as the Morning Star went to press they were holding a second in an attempt to block Castle Street, a major road in central Cardiff.
In April Citizens Advice confirmed “a number of cases” where people had died shortly after Atos ruled them fit for work, while more than a thousand people in its “work-related activity group” – involving reduced payments and work-focused interviews – in last July’s trials had died by March this year.
Ex-serviceman Jonothan Williams said he was planning to turn out in his old combat jacket and beret, medals and all.
“I’ll do this to show that veterans, those people (David Cameron) calls ‘heroes’ in Parliament, are being ‘Atossed off’ as a thank you for their service and injuries,” he said.
The group’s Cardiff convener Dr Liza van Zyle said they were from many different backgrounds but were all victims of Atos’s assessments.
“Our futures have been destroyed, and we face homelessness and destitution.
“When people are driven to destitution because their benefits are stopped, some commit suicide, some sink into further ill-health – and some decide enough is enough and fight back,” she said.
The International Paralympic Committee’s sponsorship dosh is worth an estimated £100m over the next decade, yet subsidiary Atos Origin makes that much in a single year under its WCA contract with the Department of Work and Pensions.
People who score less than 15 points on its computerised checklist are automatically deemed “fit for work” and lose their incapacity benefit.
Trials last year saw a 70 per cent drop in full benefits and a 30 per cent drop in “unfit for work” assessments, leading critics to accuse Atos of deliberately driving down payouts.
The company has rejected the claim, but earlier this month a Channel 4 programme secretly filmed Atos trainers telling assessors that an approval rate above 13 per cent was “too high.”
Since its launch, more than 300,000 people have appealed against their decisions and 38 per cent have won – with a judicial review on human rights grounds now waiting in the wings.
An Atos spokeswoman told the media that successful appeals did not mean their assessments were wrong.