On Wednesday, 19th February there was a day of peaceful, national protests against the French company, Atos SE, a multinational IT services corporation which has received millions of pounds from the UK Government for contracts to carry out public services, including a £500 million contract with the Department for Work and Pensions to carry out Work Capability Assessments of disabled people in receipt of State Benefits to ascertain if they are fit enough to work. Disabled people who fail the tests have their Benefits withdrawn. There have been thousands of incidences of Atos wrongly assessing disabled people as fit enough to work and the company has been severely criticised in the media, in parliament, by the Church, medical doctors, a Public Accounts Committee and protest groups, yet it continues to be awarded British government contracts worth millions of pounds. Work Capability Assessments carried out by Atos, have, outrageously, found people with terminal cancer, brain damage, severe multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s Disease fit for work and withdrawn their State Benefits, often their only source of income. There have been hundreds of incidences of people dying shortly after Atos had declared them ‘fit for work’ and there have also been suicides clearly linked to erroneous decisions made by Atos.
I am able-bodied but my father was disabled and I was raised in a family entirely dependent on State Benefits for income. I wrote a poem ‘I never thought of you being fit or unfit’ in memory of my Dad and in support of the protest against Atos. With thanks to Hilda Sheehan and Michael Scott at Amaryllis for publishing my poem which you can read here.