Protesters have stepped up their campaign against a Paralympics sponsor carrying out controversial disability benefit checks.
Hundreds of disabled people gathered at Atos offices across the country to highlight the harsh ‘fit to work’ tests that they claim ruin lives.
Protests by the Disabled People Against Cuts group at the company’s bases in London, Cardiff, Glasgow, Belfast and Hull were timed to coincide with the start of the Games.
The company is contracted by the Department of Work and Pensions to carry out work capability assessments. The tests check whether sick and disabled people are entitled to claim benefits or return to work.
Critics say the process is degrading forcing many people into work they are not capable of doing.
Some 70 per cent of rejected cases manage to successfully appeal the verdicts but rule changes mean many will be denied legal aid for such rulings in the future.
In April, the Citizens Advice Bureau said it had dealt with ‘a number of cases’ where people had died after being ruled fit to work.
That led to campaigners calling on Paralympians to boycott the Games in protest of Atos’s sponsorship.
But Games organisers have defended the deal. ‘Without the funding, we wouldn’t have the Paralympics,’ said Jackie Brock-Doyle of the London 2012 organising committee.
But the deaf director of Wednesday night’s opening ceremony, Jenny Sealey, criticised Atos’s sponsorship.
‘It’s important to remind people we have rights,’ she said. ‘I’m not saying we can change Atos but we have a world stage here to communicate those rights.’
Atos is one of three ‘worldwide Paralympic partners’. The others are Samsung and Visa.