Work assessments are ‘ludicrous’

Proestors outside Mitre House on Wednesday protesting against ATOS.
Proestors outside Mitre House on Wednesday protesting against ATOS.

Protests took place in Lancaster this week as part of a national demonstration against changes to disability benefits.

Students from the University of Cumbria were joined by members of the public in protest against Atos – the French IT company contracted by the government to carry out Work Cabability Assessments.

Amie Godward, 21, who represents students, said that their presence outside the Department for Work and Pensions assessment centre in Church Street on Wednesdayhad attracted a lot of attention.

She said: “We think that these tests should be run by GPs and health practitioners.

“The tests are ludicrous and unfair and not fit for purpose. I’ve spoken to one lady here with mental health issues who had the assessment and was told ‘you’re not rocking back and forth, so you’re fit for work’.

“There are stories about people with Down’s Syndrome being told that if they can push a button, they’re fit for work.

“We’re out here to support the national demonstration.

“I represent students in Lancaster but we’re also showing solidarity for other people affected by this. We’ve had incredible support from members of the public.

“We’re here to tell the government that we’re not going to accept this anymore and demand that they scrap ATOS.”

The protest in Lancaster coincided with demonstrations across the country led by DPAC – Disabled People Against The Cuts.

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said: “The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) was introduced in 2008 by the previous government who appointed Atos the sole provider.

“We have made – and continue to make – significant improvements to the WCA process since then.

“However we think it’s right to see what work people can do with the right support, rather than write people off on out-of-work sickness benefits as sometimes happened in the past.

“This government is absolutely committed to supporting disabled people. “

He added that independent reports showed the UK to be a European leader in disability provision.