Delights – and disgraces – of the Atos day of protest

Taking sides: Some of the demonstrators at Newtown, Powys. [Image: Mike Sivier]

Taking sides: Some of the demonstrators at Newtown, Powys. [Image: Mike Sivier]

Were you one of the many, many people – both able-bodied and with disabilities – who gathered outside Atos assessment centres yesterday to demand an end to the system that continues to cause the deaths of thousands of innocent people every day?

I was.

I attended one of the 144 locations used by Atos to carry out the discredited work capability assessments – in Newtown, Powys – where I was just another face in the crowd that had gathered to remind the public of the atrocity being carried out with their tax money.

The Newtown campaign was undoubtedly small in comparison to others around the country, with a maximum of 15 protesters at its height, but the public response was excellent. The assessment centre is next to a major traffic junction, meaning there were plenty of opportunities to talk to motorists while they waited for the lights to change.

The overwhelming majority of them were enthusiastically supportive.

Also supportive were the local police. We were lucky enough to have two beat officers – I think their names were Graham and Geraldine – checking in on us at regular intervals to ensure that we were not harassed or abused.

I understand that this was not the case nationally – in London, according to the Atos National Demo Facebook page, “150 Police including riot Police were … waiting for 80 disabled demonstrators”.

Elsewhere, people took creative action to raise awareness. Beastrabban’s blog tells of a rosette laid for the victims of Atos and the government’s benefit ‘reforms’ in Derby. He writes: “In the centre of the rosette is a form of the dedication to the dead read out annually for the victims of the First and Second World Wars at the Cenotaph, adapted for these new victims of government indifference and cruelty:

“‘Atos shall not weary them, nor IDS condemn. At the going down of the sun, we shall remember them.’

“Each of the ribbons surrounding this dedication has the name of one Atos’ victims.”

If you want to see the rosette, visit the blog; there is a link to the image.

In Leicester, Jayne Linney was up at 5am, taking her medication, in order to be coherent for a local radio interview at 8am, with time to recover before attending her local demo with around 50 other people.

This featured a programme lasting more than two hours, with speakers, poets and singers – captured by local homeless project Down Not Out and featured in the local press. Further information is on her blog.

But not all experiences were positive. Look at this:

140219atos-wsm-19-feb

This sign was found outside the Atos office in Weston-Super-Mare. I believe the person in the photograph was among those who found it, not those who made it – so please don’t direct any harsh comments at her.

This sign is what greeted demonstrators in Weston-Super-Mare when they arrived at the Atos office there. Clearly this office contains some very hard-line supporters of government policy, whose attitude demonstrates the blinkered, small-minded, fantasy-world attitude that allows policies like the Atos assessment regime to exist in a supposedly advanced country like ours.

For information: Not everybody attending the Atos day of action was on incapacity or disability benefits. Many were people of excellent health who came along because they are thinking people who have realised how hugely damaging the Atos assessments are, or who have friends and relatives who have been victimised by the system, and wanted to voice their opposition.

A similarly large proportion of those taking part – both able-bodied and with illnesses or disabilities – had jobs. They took time off to join the demonstrations because they believe it is wrong to victimise those who are least able to fight back; that it is wrong to bully them into an early grave.

I cannot speak for any of the other events but at Newtown, three-fifths of those present were able-bodied, including myself.

Long-term readers of this blog will be well aware that Mrs Mike has been at the receiving end of Atos – and DWP – mistreatment for years. That is why I am vocal in my opposition to Atos and the government policies that support its assessment regime.

Was the day of action a success? Yes and no.

Undoubtedly the impact on the general public has been huge. Many, many people have been made aware that people are being pushed to their deaths by government policy, and many more will become aware of it over the next few days, as media reports go out in the local press (for example, I’m expecting a report in a Powys paper today).

But there won’t be a change of policy. We have a government that does not care about public attitudes at any time except during election campaigns. At elections, we know that both Coalition parties are happy to lie through their teeth to you, in order to win your votes.

The task now is to remind people on the street of this fact – as often as is necessary to cement in the knowledge that a vote for the Conservatives or the Liberal Democrats is a betrayal of the most vulnerable people in the UK today.

After all, what kind of psychopath wants their vote to condemn an innocent person to destitution – and possibly even death?

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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33 thoughts on “Delights – and disgraces – of the Atos day of protest

      1. wrjones2012

        Exactly Che and coming on top of this weeks entirely legitimate comments by Church leaders attacking the Condem Governments full frontal attack on the poorest in the country,it would have been very unwelcome news for them.

      2. che

        It really needs a continuous onslaught against this government to get the message home.Still too many people beleive the lies and spin

  1. martha

    the demos were a success because cowardly Atos afraid to face small peaceful groups of disabled people, their carers and concerned general public standing outside their offices closed down centres for the day. They must have lost millions in business yesterday we hit them were it hurts. (Maybe millions is an exaggeration does anyone one know what the daily turnover of Atos is for running WCAs and appeals?). Imagine if we stood outside Atos centres just once every week for a while then we would make their business unviable, shares on the stock market would plummet and we would send them packing. As Tony Benn said we ‘must make the country ungovernable.’

  2. Simon

    Tory tossbag Iain Duncan Smith & that witch Esther Mcvey & the Board of ATOS should be arrested for Crimes against Humanity, locked up & the key thrown away

  3. Angel

    Hi, good on you all those who were demonstrating. Unfortunately, I was unable to come, however, I watched the news in the evening, and there was no mention of the protesting on any of the channels on the news. Did anyone see any on the news?

  4. ghost whistler

    I signed the petition and solidarity for the WsM strike. I can confirm that person in the picture (whom i don’t personally know) didn’t produce it

    I can also ‘confirm’ the receptionist at that ATOS office is a nasty old cow as well, wouldn’r surprise me if it was her.

    1. thelovelywibblywobblyoldlady

      Hmmm seems like the donkeys in WSM are not only on the beach eh …some of them work in JCP+
      Quick joke….. A JCP+ worker in WSM talking about IDS and his draconian measures…. “eeeaw eeeaw eeeawlways makes me do that”

  5. Mike Sivier

    Re: The sign in Weston-Super-Mare – according to a commenter on Facebook, “as these women were putting the sign into a bin, ATOS staff were LAUGHING at them threw the windows!”
    Charming.

    1. thelovelywibblywobblyoldlady

      Excellent post Mike.
      I wasn’t able to attend the protest in Cardiff, but I did my little bit by e mailing the BBC and the DAily Mail (boo hiss) to ask them why, when there was an Atos protest in most major towns/cities it was not reported upon by them. I then went on to tell them that their failure to report, confirmed for me a belief I have long held, which is that the BBC and Daily Mail (amongst others) are biased towards government policies.
      I know that they’ll probably bin the e mails, but it’s all about planting the seed!

  6. jaypot2012

    Well done all who took part yesterday. As for that vindictive sign outside the building, it does show the utter hatred Atos staff have for the disabled and long term sick! I’d actually be taking that further as it proves that they are biased towards their “clients” and will do nothing to help them.

    1. Mike Sivier

      The deadline is MARCH 21, not February 21, so there’s no need to panic just yet.

      Having said that – it IS worth reminding everybody to get their responses in. I haven’t done mine yet so this is a timely reminder to me, as much as anybody else.

  7. Mg Massey

    Mike I share most of your post and this oen especially prompted me to write and say WELL DONE Brother.. always good information. always words I agree with

  8. leonc1963

    Thank you Mike, according to the FT they want out not for the astronomical mess they have created but because there staff are getting death threats.

  9. Pingback: Delights – and disgraces – of the Atos day of protest | Diary of an SAH Stroke Survivor

  10. carl2407

    92 Demonstrations were attended in total on Wednesday 19th.

    No threats were issued at demonstrations, Police and Union Reps were in attendance and aside from a piece of text that Atos states was a tweet there has not been evidence of such.

    Most likely reason Atos wish to leave and why other Companies should think, or even not bid, is the incoming new law of “Wilful Neglect” which would affect every Healthcare Worker. It will be a criminal charge not a civil charge where one has to sue, it carries a penalty of upto 5 years in prison.

    http://blog.practicalethics.ox.ac.uk/2013/11/the-new-offence-of-wilful-neglect-whats-new/

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