Atos protest in Cardiff: "David Cameron is a hypocrite"
As part of a nationwide week of action aimed at Atos - the company charged by the government to reduce the disability welfare bill - a “mass die-in” was staged in Cardiff last Wednesday.
The protest represented the reported 1,500 people who annually lose - or take - their own lives, having been found 'fit for work' by the organisation and their right to benefits removed.
Coinciding with the start of the Paralympics, of which Atos is a sponsor, around one hundred supporters joined Disabled People Against Cuts, to lay “dead” at the foot of the city's landmark statue of Aneurin Bevan, the father of the NHS. Protesters also lay down in a nearby road, stopping traffic for 30 minutes.
Former soldier Jonathan Williams of Pontypool was prompted to act by what he sees as government hypocrisy. “David Cameron stands up and calls my colleagues and myself 'heroes'," he said. "But we go from heroes to zeros in a sound bite. One minute he praises us, but the next, he takes our money away.”
Disabled in the course of his military service, he added: “People have been turned into commodities by Atos Health Care. To have a civilised society where that occurs is a disgrace.”
Atos has come under intense scrutiny of late, most notably in a documentary on Channel 4 that examined the 15-minute “tick-box” criteria. The for-profit company's annual contract with the Coalition is worth £100m per year.
“Atos have told me I’m fit for work despite having a broken back and being in chronic pain,” said Morvenna from Neath. “They have no idea what it's like to live in constant pain. A short interview is not enough time for assessment."
Words: Jane Oriel
Photo: Dave Swinnerton