Trade union members are today joining disabled campaigners in peaceful demonstrations outside Atos Healthcare work assessment centres across the country.
The multinational company has increasingly come under fire for its treatment of disabled people attending fit-for-work capability assessments. The government is currently reviewing its £500m contract.
Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “The government’s own figures last year showed that 10,600 people died within six weeks of being declared ‘fit for work’ by Atos. This alone should have set alarm bells ringing that the assessments were not fit for purpose.
“We are calling on the government to stop this degrading policy and introduce a fairer transparent system that restores dignity to the sick and disabled.”
The union says more than 40% of cases where people have been deemed fit to work, and had their benefits cut have had their appeals upheld. However the appeals process can take months while some of the most vulnerable disabled are plunged into poverty.
The ‘tick-box’ nature of the tests does not cater for the complex nature of peoples illnesses, particularly for those with mental illness. This has also led, in some cases, to those with long-term degenerative and terminal illnesses, such as Parkinson’s and cancer, being told they are fit for work.
PCS has called work capability tests to be scrapped, saying support to help sick and disabled people find work if they can should be brought back in-house.
The union says the tests currently carried out by Atos on behalf of the government are designed solely to cut entitlements and have no place in our social security system.
The union is supporting today’s national day of action organised by disability campaign groups Disabled People Against the Cuts and Black Triangle.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “It is a scandal that the likes of Atos are profiting from this government’s cold and calculating assault on sick and disabled people.
“The demeaning tests should be scrapped and the work to provide the kind of professional and caring support that disabled people need and deserve should be brought back in-house.”