ATOS will no doubt have been hoping to milk their association with the Olympics and their partnership with the International Paralympic Committee over the next few weeks, but is the milk about to curdle, could the Olympics turn ATOS into a toxic brand?
Later tonight, at 8PM on Channel 4, and at 8:30PM on BBC2, both Dispatches and Panorama will be running exposes of the ATOS WCA process. We’ve already seen hints of what is to come with leaks from Dispatches showing ATOS trainers telling doctors that if they pass more than the approved amount of disabled people they will be subject to sanctions, and a DWP spokesperson claiming it is nonsense to say there are targets. Meanwhile Panorama has Professor Harrington, the independent reviewer of the WCA process admitting that it is failing disabled people and is not good enough.
Worse, Steve Hill’s case, featured on Panorama, and summarized here by bendygirl, raises the disturbing possibility that the WCA may have directly contributed to his death, by convincing a man with chronic heart failure and waiting for surgery that he was actually fit for work. Steve Hill died of a heart attack after vacuuming his car, 39 days after an ATOS doctor told him he was fit for work.
Meanwhile, a Parliamentary Early Day Motion, laid down by the superb John McDonnell, MP, one of disabled people's true friends in the Lower House, castigates ATOS for their treatment of disabled people, and the International Paralympic Committee for associating themselves with an openly disablist company by naming it as a partner. Never mind the active mistreatment of disabled people, ATOS can’t even be bothered to make most of their assessment centres actually accessible to disabled people. The IPC’s attitude when disabled people write to complain (and I have done that myself and seen their reply) is essentially that they don’t care as it isn’t their problem – I am curious as to which part of the Olympic spirit is reflected in telling disabled people you don’t care about the way they are treated by the company you are allowing to wrap itself in your flag?
83 MPs covering just about every party, though no Tories yet (quel surprise), have signed the EDM so far. Just think about that, 83 MPs condemning the International Paralympic Committee and its partner company on the first full day of the Olympics for the way disabled people are treated by them.
My own experiences of ATOS can be found here, and the long term effects it has had on me are discussed here.
I am hoping for a wonderful Olympics and Paralympics, but for a disastrous one for ATOS. And as for the International Paralympic Committee, I am hoping that this will serve to remind them that they are supposed to represent everything that is best about disabled people, not defend their oppression. The Olympic Spirit is about being the best that we can be, not about providing corporate whitewashes.