On Monday, a group of us joined a small demonstration in a business park somewhere outside Livingston. We were protesting outside the regional head quarters of Atos Origin, a company contracted by the government to run a medical testing programme of disabled people.
The tests are degrading, poorly run and ultimately allow the government to contract out the dirty work of axing support necessary to some of the most vulnerable in our society. The tests are performed by ‘medical professionals’ – they do not need to be registered doctors or nurses.
Atos are paid according to how many people they assess as fit, and just 9% of those previously considered unable to work are now being found incapable of any work at all.
Around 60% are projected to be taken off Employment Support Allowance (ESA, previously Incapacity Benefit) within one year. Claimants placed in the ‘Work Capability Group’ with working partners will now need to find work within one year or all of their benefits will be withdrawn – a loss of nearly £5,000.
The other main disability benefit, Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is now to be targeted by the government with Atos also being asked to assess capability to work. The government hope that 20% of those currently needing to claim DLA will have their benefit stopped.
Proposals even include stopping mobility support for adults in residential care, leaving some unable to leave their homes. Mobility would become based on “ability to mobilise” rather than to walk, hypothetically meaning that paralympians could be defined as fully mobile.
DLA is not an out of work benefit. It acknowledges the extra difficulties sick and disabled people face to compete on a level playing field with the able-bodied, yet according to this report, compiled for the DWP, the government do not even keep records on how many DLA recipients work.
Lothian & Borders Police reacted absurdly in defence of corporate property against 35 peaceful protesters. Over half of whom were visibly disabled.
We counted (and have the numbers for) 25 police officers, 5 vans, 2 motorbikes and a patrol car. I believe there were at least 4 further officers inside the Atos building.
The protest was continual filmed by two officers (4548).
Police continually patrolled the perimeter of the property.
At one point an officer (3926) manhandled a middle-aged female protester – a chief inspector (who witnessed the incident) refused to deal with her complaint on the scene. Instead he gave her a phone number to call. The officer in question carried on policing the demonstration. The woman was visibly in a lot of back-pain and came close to tears when complaining to the chief inspector.
‘A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.’ – Mahatma Ghandi