ATOS, the company that vets disabled benefit claimants, is in retreat, writes JON BIGGER, as he prepares for further protests in Westminster tomorrow
A few weeks ago there were demonstrations outside ATOS offices across the country (including a small but noisy one in Croydon), highlighting the fact that their work has resulted in untold mental anguish for many disabled people, and even suicides. Within days of being declared “fit for work” by ATOS, all in the name of cutting “the deficit”, there have been some people who have dropped dead.
“The deficit” is trotted out to signal the latest round of attacks on the poor and vulnerable. Britain is one of the richest countries of the world, creating millionaires every year, but seemingly it lacks the money to support people with disabilities. It isn’t cash the government lacks, its compassion. We can afford everything we need, but in order to achieve that, the government would have to raise taxation for the rich. That seems unlikely.
But direct action and protest do have an influence. The ATOS brand had long ago become toxic. Within days of the ATOS protests, the company had changed its name to OH Assist (which has the snappy tag line “making business better”). The company also signalled that it would like to give up the contract it has with the government.
This retreat by a company previously very happy to take public money signals a major victory for the public. Any one of us can face a change in our circumstances and require help because of a disability, so it is important to resist such attacks.
Tomorrow, there will be a fresh round of demonstrations against ATOS, and the Department for Work and Pensions. The government will seek to farm out this multi-million pound contract again. It’s even possible that they’ll pick an efficient private company to do the work this time which could again result in more deaths and a continued attack on people with disabilities.
From 12 noon, people are asked to congregate outside Caxton House in Westminster to help send a clear message that we will not allow people with disabilities to be attacked by the state.
The aim now has to be to end this system and to force the government to show some humanity towards the people it claims to serve.
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Coming to Croydon
- David Lean Cinema: The Great Beauty, Apr 10
- Norwood Society Talk: Crystal Palace, Apr 17
- David Lean Cinema: Inside Llewyn Davis, Apr 17
- Opening of Marlpit Lane bowling and putting greens, Apr 17
- Arts and Crafts Market, Exchange Square, Apr 19
- David Lean Cinema: Short Term, Apr 24
- Norwood Society Talk: West Norwood – a place of change, May 15
- Croydon RFC charity memorial day, May 17
- Norwood Society Talk: The Concrete Church, June 19
- Crystal Palace Overground Festival, June 26-29
- Norwood Society Talk: War Memorials, Sep 18
- Norwood Society Talk: From Fire Station to Theatre, Oct 16
- Norwood Society Talk: Lambeth’s Archives, Nov 20
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