Fury at Paralympic ‘hypocrisy’ of private firm Atos behind fit-to-work tests
ACTIVISTS have staged demonstrations outside the private firm which carries out medical assessments for benefits claims – as part of a week-long series of actions against the company.
Protesters from the Mental Health Action Group and Derbyshire Anti-Cuts Campaign gathered outside the Atos building, off Normanton Road, yesterday.
They wanted to highlight what they see as the hypocrisy of Atos supporting the Paralympic Games, which begin today.
Campaigner Raoul Pinkney said: “To think they are sponsoring the Games is just mind-boggling.
“At least with companies like McDonald’s customers go of their own free will but with Atos they have no choice at all.”
Mr Pinkney had to attend an Atos medical assessment after he injured his back.
The 41-year-old, from Borrowash, said: “I was told that there would be no problem and that I would receive the benefits.
“But when the claim came back I was told that I had failed the test and was put on to jobseeker’s allowance.
“Since then I have been making people more aware of what they are doing.”
Atos made headlines in Derby after it passed Parkinson’s sufferer Robin Mitchell fit for work.
Mr Mitchell was left facing having his benefits halved but later won an appeal against the decision.
Another protester at the action, organised nationally by Disabled People Against Cuts, was Elizabeth Potter, 48, whose husband is facing an assessment.
She said: “It puts so much pressure on people.
“My husband has chronic mental health problems that mean he is unfit to work and he is very worried.
“Atos are more than happy to promote Paralympians who have been supported by public funding but they want to cut normal people’s benefits.”
An Atos spokeswoman said: “We fully respect people’s right to peaceful protest and we understand this is a highly emotive issue.
“We do not make decisions on people’s benefit entitlement or on welfare policy.
“But we will continue to make sure that the service we provide is as highly professional and compassionate as it can be.
“At Atos we have proudly supported the Paralympics movement for a decade.
“We hope people will view the Games, as we do, as an opportunity to celebrate sporting achievement.”
A spokeswoman for the Department for Work and Pension, said: “Locog and the International Paralympics Committee make all decisions on sponsorship for the Olympics.
“All the partners provide vital funding without which the Games would not happen and they operate in the supplier guidelines.
“It’s disappointing that DPAC are protesting against sponsorship of the Paralympic Games, which is an opportunity to showcase the talents of disabled people and act as a catalyst for our sporting talents of the future.”