Kerry McCarthy condemns Atos’ sponsorship of the event, with the firm mired by protests against its role in slashing the benefits bill
By The Editor Friday August 31, 2012
A Bristol MP has joined protests against one of the chief sponsors of the 2012 Paralympic Games.
Kerry McCarthy yesterday backed disabled people and their carers in condemning Atos’ sponsorship of the event, with the firm mired by protests against its role in slashing the benefits bill.
Protesters gathered at the French company’s UK Head Quarters in London, while activists also marched on Atos offices in Cardiff, Glasgow and Belfast.
Paralympic organisers defended the controversial sponsorship deal after being asked by journalists why a company hated by so many disabled people had been allowed to associate with the Games. “Without the sponsors there would be no Games,” said Jackie Brock-Doyle.
Atos has two lucrative benefits contracts with the Department of Work Pensions. Its 1,400 doctors, nurses and physiotherapists carry out the Work Capability Assessments used to decide whether an individual is fit for work immediately, in the medium term or not at all. This contract is worth £110m a year to Atos, and the appeals cost the taxpayer another £60m a year.
Speaking yesterday, the Bristol East MP called on ministers to “stop demonising people with disabilities”.
“I understand people’s anger that Atos have been allowed to sponsor the Paralympics. Many of my constituents have had firsthand experience of the Atos Work Capability Assessments and have found it to be a flawed and an insensitive process, which has more to do with ticking boxes and meeting arbitrary Government targets than the actual welfare of the individuals whose lives are affected,” she said.
“Every week I am contacted by constituents with debilitating conditions who face losing their income or an appeal that takes months because Atos assessors are ignoring evidence of obvious physical or mental impairments. Of course it is right that people who are able to work do. But the Atos assessment is not fit for purpose, with around 1,100 people dying last year after failing the Atos test and being declared fit to work.
“In Bristol, 46% of appeals that go to tribunal are successful in getting the WCA overturned and ESA awarded. Troublingly, with representation this figure soars to an 82% success rate.”
“People are rightly angry that the Government has failed to take action to improve the assessments, while Ministers will only be too quick to associate themselves with success of Paralympians at this year’s games. The Government needs to stop demonising people with disabilities who are unable to work and start taking their concerns seriously.”
Meanwhile, the British Paralympic team has denied its members hid the Atos badge from their uniforms during the opening ceremony of the Games on Wednesday as a protest.
The straps of accreditation badges worn by all athletes, officials and the media bear the name of Atos, which also has its branding on billboards in the venues.
Whereas other teams had theirs on show, the entire Paralympics–GB team seemed to have theirs tucked inside their jackets so the Atos branding could not be seen.
But officials said that the badges had simply been tucked inside the outfits because they were flapping around in the wind before the athletes entered the stadium.