Atos Origin Disability Benefits Protest

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Capability Group’ with working partners will now need to find work within one year or all of their benefits will be withdrawn – a loss of nearly £5,000.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.

The Protest

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

Much of the information on Atos is syndicated from a post by disabled rights campaigner Sue Marsh on Left Foot Forward. For more information I recommend reading this report published by Compass.

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4 Responses to Atos Origin Disability Benefits Protest

  1. Maureen Closs says:

    I am the woman who was manhandled by so-called officer 3926. Tonight I am suffering from pains in my back, neck and side. I turned up to exercise my right to protest against the slashing of disability benefits by this and the previous UK government and a reprehensible organisation who are doing the dirty work. There were 25 police officers and 35 of us. All we wanted to do was speak to the driver of a car that was headed for Atos but before we knew it we were swarmed by police who used excessive force to move us. How can Lothian & Borders justify both the behaviour of their officers and the huge cost to council tax payers in terms of the resources deployed against disabled people?

  2. John McArdle says:

    God bless Edinburgh University Anti-Cuts Coalition for their love and solidarity.

    We are very, very, proud to have you magnificent young people on board in defence of disabled claimants.

    Thank you, from the depths of our souls.

    Solidarity – your struggle is OUR struggle! Thank you for making OUR struggle your struggle also. Proud of you!

    Black Triangle
    Anti-Defamation Campaign
    In Defence of Disabled Claimants

  3. Jan says:

    Thank you very, very much for standing side-by-side with some of the most vilified and victmised members of society. Your support means a lot.

  4. Eric Bolgiani says:

    I’m afraid we have left it to late to protest about anything meaningful in the uk any more, especially if you are UK born and breed. the police forces’ are no longer there to protect and serve the public, their sole purpose these days is to act as bully boy bouncers for the politicians and rich business of the country and woe betide anyone who dare to complain. take a good look at the majority of police men today, shaved heads muscle bound apes with not the first clue in how to deal with the public in a polite and respectful manner, then they wonder why no-one wants to be helpful or cooperate with them. Personally i wouldn’t urinate on them if they were on fire.

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