PROTESTORS gathered outside Stroud’s Job Centre Plus to campaign against Atos Healthcare’s sponsorship of the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
Members of Stroud Against the Cuts staged the demonstration on Wednesday, August 29, in opposition at the French firm’s involvement with the games due to criticisms of its assessments of people with disabilities.
The multinational firm has a £110 million contract with the Department of Work and Pensions to carry out work capability evaluations – used to determine who should receive disability benefits – but protest groups across the UK accuse the company of arbitrarily cutting eligibility figures to meet government targets on reduced welfare expenditure.
They also point to official data showing nearly four out of 10 appeals against decisions declaring people ‘fit for work’ are successful. Among the demonstrators was Gabriel Parlour, who was herself awaiting the outcome of an appeal against a DWP ruling declaring her son Ashley fit for work, despite him being diagnosed with a condition on the autistic spectrum. "This has been extremely stressful for him and for me," said Mrs Parlour.
"The assessment methods are not fit for purpose for people on the autistic spectrum because on the outside he appears completely normal.
"A computer program is not an adequate way to assess people’s health, only allowing yes or no answers and leaving no space for people to qualify and explain how their health affects their day-to-day life." Also present to lend her support was multiple sclerosis sufferer Helen Prynne, from Stroud, who said: "I think it is deeply unfair to pick on disabled people in this way.
"The balance of wealth in this country is all wrong and the government needs to get its priorities right." In response to the concerns, Atos Healthcare maintains that it meets all of its obligations.