19/02/2014 - Protests against Atos

This week sees anti-Atos demos at up to 144 assessment centres around the country.

Atos is a transnational corporation which rakes in hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers' money for providing flawed and failing assessments of disabled - and often dying - people's ability to work.

Disabled people are being hounded to death by these assessments, or driven to suicide.

The Department for Work and Pensions' own figures show that 10,600 employment support allowance and incapacity benefit claimants died within six weeks of their claim ending after Atos assessments between January and November 2011.

More recent figures are not available as the the DWP have stopped collecting this embarassing data.

Protesters are highlighting the six benefit claimants who took their lives following Atos decisions.

Last July Dr Greg Wood, the Atos whistleblower, revealed the extent to which these assessments are not fit for purpose, flagging up many failings of the system.

The Centre for Welfare Reform has shown that informal targets were being set by Atos, putting assessors under pressure to fail around 65 per cent of claimants.

At least one in four Atos "fit for work" decisions were being overturned at tribunal, costing taxpayers a further £50-60 million a year - but that one proved easy for the government to rectify. The right to appeal against wrong decisions has been removed and replaced with asking for a "mandatory reconsideration" of their case.

The length of time that such a reconsideration can take is open-ended. There is no time limit.

During the reconsideration period claimants are not given any money on which to live and are left in total destitution.

Patrick Harrington, General Secretary of Solidarity commented:

"Atos is a failure by any standard of measurement. The NHS should provide assessments of fitness to work not private companies. The misery caused by poor Atos decisions is ultimately the responsibility of those who established and preside over this mess - the ConDem coalition. The protests must continue and be supported by all right-thinking folk."