Disabled people slam ‘hypocrisy’ of Paralympics sponsor
This week disabled people have been protesting against ATOS, one of the Paralymics’ main sponsors.
WVoN spoke to Ellen Clifford from Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) to find out why.
ATOS, a giant IT company, which holds £3bn worth of contracts with the UK Government, has been carrying out assessments on disabled people who claim Incapacity Benefit.
DPAC say ATOS have wrongly assessed up to 100,000 people as ‘fit for work’. Those wrongly assessed have subsequently been put under pressure to work when they can’t.
This week DPAC has been hosting the ATOS Games, to expose what they see as the hypocrisy of its sponsorship of the Paralympics and to challenge public perception of disabled people as benefit scroungers.
“The Government is taking benefits away from genuinely disabled people. It is taking the means of survival from disabled people.
“That’s why numbers of disabled people have taken their own lives in desperation,” said Clifford.
On Wednesday DPAC held a vigil for the dead.
A coffin, filled with over 100 messages from both disabled people who have had work capability assessments and found them traumatic, and families and loved ones of disabled people who have died after being declared ‘fit for work’, was delivered to ATOS’ London offices.
On Monday, DPAC hosted a ‘medal ceremony’ outside London’s City Hall. Former paralympian Tara Flood had her medals and car keys taken from her and declared no longer disabled by ‘assessors’.
The campaigners are concerned that ATOS has been given a further £400m contract to assess claimants of Disability Living Allowance (DLA), a benefit paid to help disabled people in the UK meet additional living costs.
“The Government wants to reduce the number of DLA claimants by 20 per cent.
“It is arguing that this is about austerity, but there is an economic case for independence,” said Clifford.
Clifford points to a review by the Office of Disability issues, which found that if independent, disabled people could contribute to the economy, pay taxes and employ personal assistants.
“This is an attack on the welfare state and anyone who requires state intervention,” says Clifford.
Clifford is unsure whether the Paralympics will help people understand the daily struggles faced by disabled people.
“It’s always helpful for the movement to have representatives who can break the glass ceiling, showing what people can do physically.
“But it might worsen attitudes towards disabled people who can’t do that, as there is not an understanding of the barriers (the athletes) faced to get there.
“There’s this rhetoric of disabled people as scroungers, and there’s a danger the public won’t connect the two.
“They won’t understand we are actually talking about the same group of people,” she said.
And DPAC is not interested in working in isolation. On Friday, they will join forces with UK Uncut for an ATOS Closing Ceremony.
“We are linking with other campaigns, unions and the left, which is something we have not done before,” said Clifford.
After the Games, DPAC’ will host a Pauper’s Picnic and a lobby of Parliament on September 13, in defence of the Independent Living Fund (ILF), which the Government is proposing to close.
The ILF helps 16,000 disabled people meet the costs of personal assistants so they can stay in their own homes and out of residential care.
Another concern for DPAC is education. Clifford believes the Government green paper on Special Educational Needs will increase segregation.
“The emphasis on academies is detrimental to disabled people. They are notorious for discriminating against disabled people.
“Special schools mean non-disabled people grow up without being around disabled people,” she said.