The Socialist 22 August 2012
Disabled people should be able to enjoy sport too. I’ve watched closely the news and reports and reaction to the Olympic Games over the last few weeks but now attention turns to the Paralympics.
I’m registered blind myself and attend a gym once a week. I’d love to go more often and engage in a lot more sports but the costs are astronomical. To be fair British Blind Sport do a good bit in promoting blind people taking part in sport. I am really pleased to hear my old college the Royal National College for the Blind in Hereford will be hosting the blind football during the Paralympics.
This is all very well but for many disabled people the chance to take part in sports on a regular basis or to simply exercise to some extent is becoming increasingly difficult with less and less funding from local government and central government alike.
Disgracefully private vultures Atos are one of the Olympic and Paralympics Games’ main sponsors.
Only a government happy to make disabled people pay the price for the failures of the capitalist system can think having a sponsor such as Atos is ok.
This company makes big profits out of removing disabled people from benefits through the hated work capability assessment and finding them ‘fit for work’. Having this company as one of the main sponsors is sick in my opinion. It rubs the noses of people who have been on the raw end of Atos and their techniques in it.
Only the other week on BBC Panorama, the rigid rules to which Atos work were exposed. They apply a system which is designed against disabled people and which leads to tremendous stress on the person being assessed.
Constant assessment and appeals only makes people’s worries and lives worse – not knowing if they’ll be able to keep their benefits to live on or not. In one horrific case one man with a heart condition who struggled to breathe was unbelievably found fit for work by Atos. Several weeks later he sadly died of heart failure.
Atos’ methods feared by disabled people
Atos are a private company who the government have brought in to assess people who can’t work because of illness or disability.
They have just won another £400 million contract to privatise Disability Living Allowance assessments which are currently carried out by the Department for Work and Pensions.
Atos test 11,000 sick and disabled people every week, then decide whether they’re “fit for work”. The tests are deeply flawed, driven by targets and designed to push people off benefits in an effort to slash billions from welfare spending.
There have been 600,000 appeals since the tests started, costing £60 million; 40% are successful, rising to over 70% when people have proper representation.
Disabled People Against Cuts are holding five days of action against Atos nationally. On 28 August they are organising protests outside the assessment centres. For more details see dpac.uk.net
- Kick ATOS and other private companies out of the DWP. Redeploy their staff into the public sector
- Reverse cuts to disability benefits as part of a campaign against ALL cuts
Up to 150 angry protestors took part in a loud and vibrant demonstration against plans to close the Aston Arena in Birmingham, the only leisure centre in the area. The plans were started by the previous Tory council, and are being continued by the Labour administration.
Is this what the Olympic legacy looks like? Closing down facilities in the poorest areas robbing people of the chance to take part in sport and other activities?
The council say they are developing the area to create over 1,500 jobs – but they have not raised any possibility of alternative sites within Aston for a new sports facility to be built. This is very similar to the situation in Coventry, where the Labour council are closing Foleshill Leisure Centre, in one of the most deprived areas of the city.