French IT firm Atos have the contract to carry out the Government’s Work Capability Assessment, a short computer based test which is used to establish eligibility for the sickness and disability benefit Employment Support Allowance. Hundreds of thousands of sick and disabled people have been stripped of benefits, or placed in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG). A recent investigation found 32 people a week are dying after being placed in this group. People in the WRAG group can face benefit sanctions should they not carry out pointless back to work activities inflicted on them by poverty pimps like A4e, or the money grabbing charities who are sub-contractors for the Government’s failing Work Programme scheme.
Atos are one of the companies bidding for the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) contract. This is a similar testing regime to the one currently run by Atos and is being designed to strip Disability Living Allowance from a fifth of disabled people.
Atos have seen protests outside their offices across the UK with regular demonstrations also staged outside their gleaming London Headquarters.
These protests show no sign of dying down as yesterday’s actions prove. Campaigners occupied the waiting area of Atos’ Arden House where they performed street theatre. According to indymedia, they met the usual contempt for claimants from Atos staff, with one of the occupiers saying:
“ATOS security and staff were quick to show their complete contempt for people out of work with the management telling activists to ‘stop being lazy and get a job’. They attempted to stop the protest from being filmed, confiscated the table being used as a prop (injuring someone in the process) and called the police. Despite these attacks the demonstration was successful.”
Meanwhile the Nottingham Defence Campaign has published a pamphlet highlighting both Atos’ treatment of sick and disabled benefit claimants, as well as the increased use of political policing in the city.
Last year two people were arrested and charged with Aggravated Trespass after a peaceful protest outside Atos’ Nottingham offices. A solidarity campaign drew support from around the UK, with more demonstrations held in Nottingham in support of those charged, who were dubbed the ‘Atos Two’.
In a major victory for the campaign, the charges were eventually dropped as the complainant (Atos) no longer supported the prosecution. This is not the first time the company has backed down. After their attempts to censor the internet last year by issuing a wave of legal threats and take down notices to those critical of them, scores of websites defied their legal bullying. Atos appear to have retreated, with no action taken against the websites which published material that Atos considered ‘tasteless’.
The pamphlet, which can be downloaded here (PDF) contains the story of the Atos Two, as well as many other resources including advice for those facing the Atos testing regime. It also includes a copy of the joint letter signed by countless campaign groups, as well as health and social care professionals, which was sent to the British Medical Journal (BMJ) and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).
A print version of the pamphlet can be ordered for a quid, for more info contact: nottsdefence [at] riseup.net
This will not be the end of action directed at Atos and should provide a taster of what’s to come for the rest of the poverty pimp scum bidding to take on the Personal Independence Payment assessments.