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Disabled activists expose Paralympic hypocrisy

Disabled People Against Cuts organised a week of protests in the run-up to the Paralympic Games to highlight attacks on people with disabilities. In particular, they are targeting the disgusting role of Atos, a major sponsor of the Paralympics as well as the government’s main weapon against those claiming Disability Living Allowance (DLA). Rebecca Anderson writes

Atos was awarded a £400 million government contract to cut spending on disability benefits by 20 per cent, or £3.5 billion. This is equivalent to half a million disabled people losing their income and huge cuts for many more. Atos achieves this by setting ludicrous and humiliating “tests” for claimants to “prove” they are in need – and failing them on the slightest technical grounds.

Hundreds took part in the “Closing Atos Ceremony” on 31 August, which started outside the company’s HQ before moving on to the Department of Work and Pensions. They demanded to speak to Iain Duncan Smith and the Minister for Disabled People, Maria Miller. Right on cue, police attacked the protest, breaking the shoulder of a wheelchair user – proving once again whose side they are really on.

Put simply, the government is trying to make the poorest and most vulnerable in society pay the cost of the economic crisis.

It is introducing Universal Credit, which will replace a number of benefits while reducing the income of disabled people. An arbitrary target of a 20 per cent cut to disability benefits means that the DWP, Atos and other private companies have been tasked with throwing genuinely disabled people off benefits and into absolute poverty.

In reality, only 0.4% of Disability Living Allowance claims are fraudulent but the government has conducted a hate campaign against those in receipt of this benefit in order to justify scrapping it.

Tested to death

Since testing began, 1,100 people have died soon after being declared fit for work. One person in a coma had his benefits withdrawn because he was declared fit for work. Some have committed suicide after having their claims rejected.

The government’s guidance on who should be declared fit for work is harsh, but ATOS has gone further. Over 30 per cent of appeals against the ATOS decisions have been successful, rising to 80-90 per cent if advice is obtained.

Disability Living Allowance, mobility and carers’ payments all contribute to providing a minimum quality of life for disabled people. The government claims that the cuts will help disabled people find work, when the reality is that unemployment already stands at 8 per cent and disabled people face routine discrimination.

Keep Remploy open

The government’s hypocrisy is exposed further by the fact they are actually throwing disabled people out of work through the planned closure of 54 Remploy factories specially fitted to employ disabled people. Their very existence recognises the fact that employers refuse to take on disabled workers.

However, after two brilliant days of action, Unite and the GMB called off the national Remploy strike – although Glasgow and Chesterfield factories have held a further four-day strike and are starting a weeklong stoppage on 3 September.

Other Remploy employees should follow their example and call further action. DWP staff should also strike to stop jobs being outsourced to disgusting outfits like Atos. A well-unionised public sector workplace is far more accountable for its actions than a company like ATOS.

Disabled People Against the Cuts has touched a public nerve with their protests. Their campaign will neither stop at the Paralympics nor be limited to Atos – there are many companies profiteering from the attacks on disabled people.

The combination of industrial and direct action can challenge the government over their welfare “reforms”. Paralympic athletes at the have supported the campaign – but if these Games are to have a lasting legacy then we must help Remploy workers and disabled protesters win this fight.


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