Protest over 'fit for work' tests

Blackpool Citizen: Campaigners claim that Atos tests for people on disability benefits are 'damaging and distressing' Campaigners claim that Atos tests for people on disability benefits are 'damaging and distressing'

Activists have staged a protest at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) against multinational IT firm and Paralympics sponsor Atos, which carries out the Government's "fit for work" assessments.

Disabled and anti-cuts campaigners have been rallying all over the country for the last week because they claim the tests for people on disability by Atos are "damaging and distressing".

They took their protest to Atos's London headquarters on Friday, before carrying out a "secret action" at the DWP's building in central London.

Several protesters got into the DWP building and a further two in wheelchairs chained themselves to the doors, according to UK Uncut, which has been staging the protests together with Disabled People Against Cuts.

Pictures posted on Twitter show the group sporting a banner which read "Tax Avoidance = £25 billion, Welfare Cuts = £4.5 billion" outside the DWP's offices in Caxton House.

Molly Solomons, a spokeswoman for UK Uncut, said around 150 people had taken part in the protest at Atos's 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."

A spokeswoman for the French multinational said: "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."

A spokeswoman for the DWP said Locog and the IPC make all decisions on sponsorship for the Paralympics. She said: "All the partners provide vital funding without which the Games would not happen and they operate within the supplier guidelines."

The spokeswoman said Atos Healthcare, the subsidiary of Atos which holds the work capability assessment contract, does not make decisions about benefit entitlement, which are left to "decision-makers" in the DWP.

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