DPAC set for week of protests over social care, Atos and access to transport

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By John Pring Disability News Service July 13th 2017

Disabled activists are set to lobby MPs this week on the urgency of the social care crisis, as part of a week of action that will take place across the country, including a protest outside the Olympic Stadium.

The highlight of the week of action planned by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) is likely to be the parliamentary lobby, on Wednesday (19 July), in which campaigners will try to persuade MPs to address the funding crisis which has seen many working-age disabled people experience cuts to their social care packages.

This year’s general election campaign saw politicians, and the mainstream media, focus on the social care needs of older people, and almost completely ignore working-age disabled people.

A DPAC spokesperson said: “Theresa May has promised a consultation on social care later in the year but disabled people battling cuts to essential daily support need concrete action now.”

The lobby will take place as MPs take part in the last prime minister’s questions before parliament’s summer recess.

But DPAC’s week of action will also see a renewed attempt to highlight the damage caused to disabled people by the actions of the Department for Work and Pensions contractor Atos.

The week will begin tomorrow (Friday) with a protest on the Olympic Park, in east London, with DPAC organising its own “opening ceremony” as the World Para Athletics Championships begin.

It plans to make sure those attending the athletics event know that Atos is an international partner of the International Paralympic Committee, and will be providing IT services at the championships, while DPAC will also be “drawing awareness to the issues that disabled people are experiencing”.

The week of action will end on Friday 21 July with a protest outside the Atos headquarters in Triton Square, London.

Previous protests in Triton Square have focused on the company’s government contract to carry out work capability assessments, a process that researchers, activists and the Equality and Human Rights Commission have concluded has caused significant harm and distress to many of those being assessed, and has also been linked to the deaths of many disabled claimants.

Atos itself was viewed as being responsible for many of those failings.

But although Atos quit the WCA contract in 2014, it is now developing a similar reputation for the way it carries out another assessment contract, this time for the government’s new personal independence payment (PIP) benefit.

A major DNS investigation has uncovered scores of cases in which claimants have described how Atos assessors – and those from the government’s other PIP assessment contractor, Capita – have produced dishonest reports after carrying out face-to-face assessments.

Ellen Clifford, a member of DPAC’s national steering group, said: “Atos have had it easy. The way they have been treating people has been with continued utter contempt, so we need to focus back on them.

“We haven’t been back to Atos HQ for a while so we thought it was time we went back.”

A national day of action, on Tuesday (18 July), will see local DPAC groups organise their own actions on issue that are important to them, with many protests likely to focus on cuts to social care, Atos and its PIP assessments, and disabled people’s right to access public transport.

There will also be a national action outside the Department for Transport’s offices in London, on Thursday (20 July), to highlight how increasing moves towards “driver only operated trains”, and the removal of both guards from trains and rail staff from stations, threaten disabled people’s freedom to travel.

Those taking part will be delivering a petition to the government, which will demand that every train has a “safety critical” guard.

Clifford said DPAC was likely to focus its efforts over the next year on “trying to get the Tories out” and help to “finish them off”.

She said: “That is it explicitly, because they are very weak at the moment.

“Across the anti-austerity movement and the trade union movement there is a push now following the election result to finish them off, and so next week is part of that.”

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