Today (Friday 16th December 2011) members of Social Work Action Network London joined other groups to protest against the Victorian Christmas being inflicted on hundreds of thousands of sick and disabled people this Christmas by Atos – a Paris-based IT company.
Representatives of Mad Pride, Defend Welfare Network, Boycott Workfare, Winvisible, Islington Disabled People Against Cuts, Black Triangle Campaign and Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group turned out to protest against Atos' Work Capability Assessments (WCAs) for Employment and Support Allowance.
Some attendees dressed in Victorian garb to represent a comparison of the social policy which Atos are helping to manifest with that of Victorian times. It was a small but noisy demonstration and gave Atos the warning that we will all be back in the New Year.
Atos is being paid £100m a year to carry out the work capability assessments (WCAs), allowing the government to phase out incapacity benefit and replace it with the employment and support allowance (ESA).
The discredited WCAs themselves, the software which ‘assists’ the assessments (which misses nuanced and fluctuating conditions) and the centres in which these assessments occur (some of which are not wheelchair accessible), demonstrate Atos’ values and the real reason why they have been awarded this lucrative government contract: to meet sharp government quotas for reducing the number of people claiming Employment and Support allowance, rather than to assess and meet need. These assessments have led to tens of thousands of sick and disabled people being forced into poverty after being stripped of essential benefits. A number of suicides have been reported in the wake of WCAs.
To add grievous insult to injury, Atos are sponsoring the Paralympic Games (!) and Atos’ form of testing is soon to be extended to disabled and sick people claiming Disability Living Allowance.
Dan spoke on behalf of SWAN London at the demonstration and said he was proud to represent social workers who are appalled by the current assessment process and oppose it.
Pictures follow below of SWAN London members and others. Research on Atos’ Work Capability Assessments can be found here.
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