Sunday, 23 February 2014

ATOS retreats in the face of nationwide protests

Campaigners protest outside the Lancaster Assessment Centre at Mitre House
Local campaigners who staged a demonstration outside the ATOS assessment centre in Lancaster last Wednesday can claim a victory as the BBC confirmed on Friday that the French owned company is seeking an early exit from its contract with the Department of Work and Pensions.

As the Lancaster Guardian reported this week, students and local residents joined forces to participate in a nationally co-ordinated day of demonstrations against the company and the manner in which it has carried out its workplace assessments on disabled people which are alleged to have resulted in thousands of untimely deaths.

Local and national voluntary organisations have been overwhelmed by the need to attempt to alleviate suffering created by by the systematic and cyclic pressure to find employment placed on vulnerable disabled people in a system where medical evidence is disallowed and essential welfare benefits stopped.

(See previous story: 'Local services count the cost of ATOS / DWP failings').

ATOS have claimed, essentially, that they are merely following the DWP's orders and that it is the nature of the tests they have to conduct on behalf of the DWP which are at fault. The government has countered with accusations that standards at ATOS had declined unacceptably. However, the National Audit Office pointed out as early as 2012 that the DWP had failed to penalise the company for its poor performance.

Public opinion has turned strongly against the company and it claims that staff are being increasingly abused, with some having received death threats.

ATOS is clearly reluctant to continue being caught between, on the one hand, a government that can see see little profit or purpose in supporting those who become too infirm to work, other than as a rationale for creating lucrative public contracts for private 'Service Provider' companies that produce little more than meaningless paperwork and, on the other, the increasingly alienated communities they were elected to serve.

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