Friday 13 May 2011

WtB Podcast - 1. Protest Against Atos Origin

Lisa's note: WtB has a podcast! I'm so very excited. I have to say a huge, huge, huge thanks to Goldfish for all her hard work this week making this audio file into a podcast by doing all the research as to how one actually sets up a podcast. She typed up the transcript that's beneath the jump too. I also have to say thanks to the people that spoke to me on Monday. We'd have no audio file if it weren't for them.

You can find our podcast in iTunes here. The feedburner feed is here.

Lisa: Hi and welcome to the first episode of the Where’s the Benefit
podcast. I’m Lisa, one of the founders of WtB.

This week from the 9th to the 15th of May is a “week of action against
Atos” organised by the campaign group Benefits Claimants Fight Back.

Atos Origin are the private company contracted by the government to
carry out the medical assessments to determine whether or not a person
is eligible for benefits. This includes the controversial Work
Capability Assessment to deem if a person is eligible for Employment
and Support Allowance.

On Monday afternoon I went down to the protest and picnic outside
Atos’s headquarters in London and spoke to some of the protesters. I
asked people who they were and why they’d come out to demonstrate and
this is what they had to say.

Marmie: I'm Marmie. I'm here with the DPAC. I'm also here as an
African woman with impairments and I'm really here to say that what
Atos is doing against disabled people is inhumane, is outrageous and
is quite barbaric. For years, they've been making huge amounts of
profits on the backs of our oppression. It needs to stop. We're here
to get the message across to Atos that we will not stand for this. We
are very united as disabled people. We must keep up the pressure. We
must continue the struggle. And eventually we will win.

Our message to the Con-Dem government is you cannot carry on
oppressing us. We are here to stay. We're going to carry on
campaigning and protesting. And we hope that the whole of the UK will
wake up to Atos Origin, as just another greedy multi-national company
which is on the backs of disabled people, destroying our lives and
more or less killing people! Because people are living in fear.
They're living in fear of oppression. They're living, having their
benefits cut. They're living against all these assessments. It's all
injustice, it's all inhumane and it needs to stop.

Carol: My name is Carol, I'm the mother of a disabled child. And the
reason I'm here is because I want to show my opposition to the
government cuts. I'm outraged by Atos and the methods that they're
using to basically get people off disabilities. I think this
“check-box” system where they invite people in for an interview and,
you know, they have that computerised system which they just
basically, uh. It's a really inhumane way to treat people and I'm
outraged to hear people are being thrown off benefits,. It's almost as
if the State wants to slough off a whole section of people and leave
them to fend for themselves. It seems to be that that's what the
purpose is; just to get people off benefits, remove them from public
sight and just leave people, you know, without any support.

Yeah, so that's why I'm here and, um, I intend to come to as many of
these as possible. I hope that I can come to as many of these as
possible. I hope the movements grows and we can link all these
struggles together. I feel that disabled people are kind of at the
forefront of the struggle. Really I just think that, you know, the way
in which the government has targeted them, as if there would be no
opposition. I'm glad to see that people turned up here today and I
think the vibe has been very good and strong.

Yeah, I just wanted to mention David Cameron as well because before he
walked into Number 10, he had said that he understood the situation of
disabled people and that he would make sure that they were protected
and their benefits would not be touched and so on. And then for him
to, you know, as soon as he walks into Number 10 that completely
changes. And it's like there was this language where they say one
thing and then they do the complete opposite as if we're too stupid to
notice that they're basically making these cuts. And considering that
he had a disabled child, he also relied on the state for basic
services. How can he do this to a whole swathe of people? It's just

Adam: My name's Adam Lotun. I'm here for myself personally, and also
to represent those people who can't be here because of their
disabilities. I'm here to try and further the argument and raise the
voice of the disabled community against the use of the Work Capability
Test by Atos and their involvement in the whole process of assessing
people with disabilities. And also, the non-consistency in how Atos
operate. You have assessors who are nursing officials, nursing
practitioners. You have doctors – who may be medical doctors – or you
have “medical professionals” who could be a podiatrist, could be an
optician or could just be an ENT person. And they're going to talk to
you and make a ruling on you as a disabled person even though they
know nothing about the disability they're looking at or how
disabilities effect people in their lives today. So that's what I'm
here for.

Also to have a go at the Con-Dems today, about their policies of
discriminating against people with disabilities. The one thing I
cannot understand is that we do have the Equality Act and the DDA but
still the government break that. That's about it.

Eleanor: Hi, I'm Eleanor. I'm a co-founder of DPAC and we're here
today to protest about the Atos Origin and the 300 million pounds they
got from the DWP. But basically we're here to protest about what Atos
is doing and about the assessments which has created an environment of
fear for a lot of disabled people. So much so that some of them are
thinking of committing suicide because they are at great risk of
losing the support system which has been what is, for many of them,
what is used to keep them going.

Sam: My name's Sam, I'm nineteen, I work on organic farms. I've got a
friend who uses a wheelchair and claims Disability Living Allowance.
She lives in Leeds so she can't be here today but she uses on-line
disability forums and she told me stories of people who are waiting
for the day that their letter arrives to be reassessed on a system
that's not basing the decisions on facts but simply on targets for
random cuts they've been told to make by the government. And some of
these people who are waiting for their letters to arrive are
contemplating suicide and serious consequences in their personal and
family lives based on whether they can get the disability benefits
that they've been claiming for years and that they're entitled to.

Keith: I'm here because of the systematic abuse of disabled people.
Our people are disabled by society. One of the lies put about by the
Daily Mail and the other yellow press is that disabled people don't
work. The reality is that most disabled people I know do work, they
just don't get paid for their contribution to society. Obviously,
within their resources, and many conditions are you're better some
days than other days and when you're not well, it really effects you
far more. Everyone has good days and bad days. The differences is for
people with impairments is the bad days means they can't go out or
they can't function at all. Impairments effect us all. And if you've
not now got an impairment, bare in mind that in the future you're
likely to, statistically speaking, to have an impairment and to be in
the same situation as the people being cut off now.

Let's say no to Dignitas, Atos and the stealth culture. We're the forth
richest country in the world, one of the smallest rich countries in
the world and we can afford to give civilisation and dignity, because
the two main aspects of equality are dignity and respect. And we're
neither getting dignity nor respect from this government, in order to
support their tax-fiddlers in the multi-national companies. .

Amx: I'm Amx Waters, I'm here from Queer Resistance which is an
anti-cuts group, an anti-cuts collective made up of LGBTQI people.
We're fighting the cuts and also defending the right to protest. A
lot of queer people are suffering from the cuts to benefits at the
moment, especially cuts to HIV support services and mental health
care. Basically, Queer Resistance is here to stand in solidarity with
all of those people.

Sam B: My name is Sam Brackenbury. I'm here to defend benefits. I'm
here to defend independent living. And I'm here to defend people who
can't speak for themselves because they are locked up in nursing homes
and they're being deprived of DLA.

People think direct action means hitting it on the streets and
blocking roads. It doesn't. It means picking up the phone, writing
to your MP, writing to the papers, phoning your local radio stations,
saying that you're not going to put up with this. Right. People
voted for a government that's let them down. The government has let
us down systematically, doesn't matter what political colour they are,
they have let us down systematically throughout the years. Right. It's
not governments that make the difference, it's people that make the
difference. As has been proved in Egypt, it's been proved in Yemen.
It's been proved all over. So if disabled people really want to change
things, it's up to them to get out on the street. They can't write to
their MP, expect an able-bodied MP to understand what they're going
through. If they're really irritated about something, it's up to them
to get out on the street, start picking up the phones and asking
awkward questions.

Lisa: For more information on Benefit Claimants Fight Back their
website is at or they tweet as

We’ll be back again next week, or sometime around there. With us all
being sickly types we can’t promise we’ll be able to keep to a strict
schedule of weekly podcasts. But we’ll try our best.

In the meantime you can find our blog at, you can ‘like’ us on facebook by going
to You can follow us on twitter
@wheresbenefit (there’s a character limit on twitter usernames and we
didn’t have room for the “the”. So we’re just @wheresbenefit) or if
you’ve got anything you want to ask us, or you’d like to pitch us a
guest post for our blog then you can Email us at
wheresthebenefit *at* gmail *dot* com

Thanks for listening!

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant! Well done to everyone involved, whichever side of the microphone they were on!