Disability protests hit Lincoln

Written by Philip Wilson-Smith.

Disability campaigners held a protest in Lincoln against Atos healthcare yesterday—the company which assess the disabled needs for benefits.


Jane Hill - One of the protesters against Atos. Photo: Philip Wilson-Smith
Jane Hill - One of the protesters against Atos. Photo: Philip Wilson-Smith
The protest group is affiliated with Disabled People Against Cuts. The protest took place outside the Atos Healthcare medical examination centre on Newland, and is part of a national day of action which will see multiple groups across the UK protesting outside Atos buildings.

Jane Hill, 61, a member of DPAC Lincoln and organiser of the protest said: “He’s 64 in May and they say ‘Go get a job’. He’s riddled with arthritis and now he’s got terrible stress through it all. At 64 where is he going to go get a job?”

“They’ve [ATOS] got to stop penalising the very vulnerable—it’s like they’re picking on them because they’re an easy target.”

Mrs Hill’s Husband was a policeman for 25 years and later tried to retrain as a teacher but was unable due to the severity of his arthritis.

“He was at the Guildford bombing—he had to face that with no counselling and while he was in that pub the other bomb went off in the other street.”

“We still don’t have crackers at Christmas, because he had no help and this is how it is throughout the country—there is a lot of silent suffering.”

Several of the protesters had struggled with Atos healthcare to prove their eligibility for benefits.

Nina Thiedeman, 45, is fighting with Atos to get a specially adapted house and is worried she may end up homeless. She said:

“They can only re-house you if you have a disability need. They can’t recognise a need you already have. I need a new disability to get a new house that I can live in.”

“Personally I could end up on the street and if I did that I might as well be dead.”

In a press release Atos said: “We understand that people may have very strong personal opinions about whether the Work Capability Assessment or welfare policy is fair.”

“However, Atos Healthcare has no control over welfare policy, the design of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), or the specific eligibility criteria for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). These are set by government.

“We are measured on our customer service, quality and timeliness and we are scrutinised to ensure we are consistent, fair and respectful to those we see.

We have no targets in relation to the outcome of benefit claims either at an individual or overall level.

“Our service is not always perfect and unfortunately we do sometimes make mistakes. If anyone has a specific concern about their assessment or wishes to raise a complaint, the contact details of our customer services team can be found on our website and in customer correspondence letters from Atos Healthcare.”

Atos healthcare assess patients on behalf of the Department of Work and Pensions and according to a leaked review from the DWP, Atos may lose its £500 million contract while MPs look at alternate companies to do its job.

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