Report by Sam Datta-Paulin Friday 31 Aug 2012 19:09
Disability benefits protesters have fought with police at the Department of Work and Pensions’ (DWP) Caxton House office in London.
The group were demonstrating against multinational IT firm and Paralympics sponsor Atos, which carries out the Government’s highly controversial “fit for work” assessments.
Disabled and anti-cuts campaigners have been using the sponsorship deal to highlight their cause with protests throughout the country for the last week, over claims the tests for people on disability by Atos are “damaging and distressing”.
At the DWP, several people got into the building whilst two in wheelchairs chained themselves to the doors.
Molly Solomons, a spokeswoman for UK Uncut, said around 150 people had taken part in the protest at Atos’ headquarters, with a further 30 moving on to the DWP building.
She said: “We are doing this to highlight that Atos, a sponsor for the Paralympic Games, is receiving £100 million from the Government in the hope they will assess people with disabilities and get them off benefits.
“This is due to a political and ideological choice which harms disabled and sick people, not an economic necessity.”
Atos has held the contract with the DWP for work capability assessments since 1998 and carries out 15,000 face-to-face assessments weekly.
A spokeswoman for the company 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 the service that we provide is as highly professional and compassionate as it can be.”
They added: “We do this through a constant programme of training and education for our staff, a rigorous recruitment process for healthcare professionals and those going through the process on the ground.”
“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 achievements.”
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