Why you should be joining the anti-ATOS day of action on Friday
If you know about ATOS, you can skip the next three paragraphs. If you don’t, read on, but also read this article: What’s Wrong with ATOS
The taxpayer pays ATOS £300m to carry out Work Capability Assessments for people claiming disability benefits. ATOS is primarily an IT company, though these are carried out by ATOS Healthcare. The assessments are simply computer based checklists, and ATOS often ignore doctors advice about the patients capability for work. This leads to many wrong assessments, with DPAC saying that 70% of appeals are upheld. We pay an additional £30m -£50m for the costs of appeals. This appeal process can take up to 18 months, leaving a disabled person who is incorrectly assessed without their benefits. I have heard of a case of someone with terminal cancer who was assessed fit to work, and died two weeks later. At a recent public meeting, Sam from DPAC said that 5 people have committed suicide due to the assessment process and the stress it has caused them.
ATOS recently used libel laws to get various websites that had content critical of their handling of WCAs pulled from the web, including Carer Forum, where many disabled people and carers receive support and advice. For those who find it difficult to leave the house, the internet provides an important safety and support network, which ATOS removed for a number of days.
And recently, ATOS were given contracts for the UK Paralympics IT systems. The chair of ATOS has also been put on the board for the Paralympics. This is a disgusting slap in the face for disabled people.
More broadly, the Welfare Reform Bill is being railroaded through parliament, with procedural rules being used to sideline debate, and we see attacks on disabled people and benefit claimants in the tabloids time and time again. Recently the Daily Mail and Express ran articles claiming just 7% of ESA claimants need it – Latent Existence took them apart on their figures here. When the Express ran an article about worklessness, there were more discussions about the statistics – you can read my analysis here with links to others.
The fight to get ATOS removed as the company that runs WCAs is part of the movement to protect benefit claimants from attacks by the ConDem coalition as part of the austerity agenda. The demonisation of this group, the attempt to split the working class, must be resisted. The best way for non-benefit claimants to resist this is through acts of solidarity and mutual aid.
In this case solidarity means going to and promoting actions in support of benefit claimants. So on Friday, wherever you are, either join a local action, or take part in the online event and then prepare to the next day of action.