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 Benefitpodcast. I’m Lisa, one of the founders of WtB.This week from the 9th to the 15th of May is a “week of action againstAtos” organised by the campaign group Benefits Claimants Fight Back.Atos Origin are the private company contracted by the government tocarry out the medical assessments to determine whether or not a personis eligible for benefits. This includes the controversial WorkCapability Assessment to deem if a person is eligible for Employmentand Support Allowance.On Monday afternoon I went down to the protest and picnic outsideAtos’s headquarters in London and spoke to some of the protesters. Iasked people who they were and why they’d come out to demonstrate andthis is what they had to say.Marmie: I'm Marmie. I'm here with the DPAC. I'm also here as anAfrican woman with impairments and I'm really here to say that whatAtos is doing against disabled people is inhumane, is outrageous andis quite barbaric. For years, they've been making huge amounts ofprofits on the backs of our oppression. It needs to stop. We're hereto get the message across to Atos that we will not stand for this. Weare very united as disabled people. We must keep up the pressure. Wemust continue the struggle. And eventually we will win.Our message to the Con-Dem government is you cannot carry onoppressing us. We are here to stay. We're going to carry oncampaigning and protesting. And we hope that the whole of the UK willwake up to Atos Origin, as just another greedy multi-national companywhich is on the backs of disabled people, destroying our lives andmore or less killing people! Because people are living in fear.They're living in fear of oppression. They're living, having theirbenefits cut. They're living against all these assessments. It's allinjustice, it's all inhumane and it needs to stop.Carol: My name is Carol, I'm the mother of a disabled child. And thereason I'm here is because I want to show my opposition to thegovernment cuts. I'm outraged by Atos and the methods that they'reusing 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 justbasically, uh. It's a really inhumane way to treat people and I'moutraged to hear people are being thrown off benefits,. It's almost asif the State wants to slough off a whole section of people and leavethem to fend for themselves. It seems to be that that's what thepurpose is; just to get people off benefits, remove them from publicsight 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 ofthese as possible. I hope that I can come to as many of these aspossible. I hope the movements grows and we can link all thesestruggles together. I feel that disabled people are kind of at theforefront of the struggle. Really I just think that, you know, the wayin which the government has targeted them, as if there would be noopposition. I'm glad to see that people turned up here today and Ithink the vibe has been very good and strong.Yeah, I just wanted to mention David Cameron as well because before hewalked into Number 10, he had said that he understood the situation ofdisabled people and that he would make sure that they were protectedand their benefits would not be touched and so on. And then for himto, you know, as soon as he walks into Number 10 that completelychanges. And it's like there was this language where they say onething and then they do the complete opposite as if we're too stupid tonotice that they're basically making these cuts. And considering thathe had a disabled child, he also relied on the state for basicservices. How can he do this to a whole swathe of people? It's justhypocritical.Adam: My name's Adam Lotun. I'm here for myself personally, and alsoto represent those people who can't be here because of theirdisabilities. I'm here to try and further the argument and raise thevoice of the disabled community against the use of the Work CapabilityTest by Atos and their involvement in the whole process of assessingpeople with disabilities. And also, the non-consistency in how Atosoperate. You have assessors who are nursing officials, nursingpractitioners. You have doctors – who may be medical doctors – or youhave “medical professionals” who could be a podiatrist, could be anoptician or could just be an ENT person. And they're going to talk toyou and make a ruling on you as a disabled person even though theyknow nothing about the disability they're looking at or howdisabilities effect people in their lives today. So that's what I'mhere for.Also to have a go at the Con-Dems today, about their policies ofdiscriminating against people with disabilities. The one thing Icannot understand is that we do have the Equality Act and the DDA butstill the government break that. That's about it.Eleanor: Hi, I'm Eleanor. I'm a co-founder of DPAC and we're heretoday to protest about the Atos Origin and the 300 million pounds theygot from the DWP. But basically we're here to protest about what Atosis doing and about the assessments which has created an environment offear for a lot of disabled people. So much so that some of them arethinking of committing suicide because they are at great risk oflosing 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 afriend who uses a wheelchair and claims Disability Living Allowance.She lives in Leeds so she can't be here today but she uses on-linedisability forums and she told me stories of people who are waitingfor the day that their letter arrives to be reassessed on a systemthat's not basing the decisions on facts but simply on targets forrandom cuts they've been told to make by the government. And some ofthese people who are waiting for their letters to arrive arecontemplating suicide and serious consequences in their personal andfamily lives based on whether they can get the disability benefitsthat 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 theDaily Mail and the other yellow press is that disabled people don'twork. The reality is that most disabled people I know do work, theyjust don't get paid for their contribution to society. Obviously,within their resources, and many conditions are you're better somedays than other days and when you're not well, it really effects youfar more. Everyone has good days and bad days. The differences is forpeople with impairments is the bad days means they can't go out orthey can't function at all. Impairments effect us all. And if you'venot now got an impairment, bare in mind that in the future you'relikely to, statistically speaking, to have an impairment and to be inthe same situation as the people being cut off now.Let's say no to Dignitas, Atos and the stealth culture. We're the forthrichest country in the world, one of the smallest rich countries inthe world and we can afford to give civilisation and dignity, becausethe two main aspects of equality are dignity and respect. And we'reneither getting dignity nor respect from this government, in order tosupport their tax-fiddlers in the multi-national companies. .Amx: I'm Amx Waters, I'm here from Queer Resistance which is ananti-cuts group, an anti-cuts collective made up of LGBTQI people.We're fighting the cuts and also defending the right to protest. Alot of queer people are suffering from the cuts to benefits at themoment, especially cuts to HIV support services and mental healthcare. Basically, Queer Resistance is here to stand in solidarity withall of those people.Sam B: My name is Sam Brackenbury. I'm here to defend benefits. I'mhere to defend independent living. And I'm here to defend people whocan't speak for themselves because they are locked up in nursing homesand they're being deprived of DLA.People think direct action means hitting it on the streets andblocking roads. It doesn't. It means picking up the phone, writingto your MP, writing to the papers, phoning your local radio stations,saying that you're not going to put up with this. Right. Peoplevoted for a government that's let them down. The government has letus down systematically, doesn't matter what political colour they are,they have let us down systematically throughout the years. Right. It'snot governments that make the difference, it's people that make thedifference. 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 changethings, it's up to them to get out on the street. They can't write totheir MP, expect an able-bodied MP to understand what they're goingthrough. If they're really irritated about something, it's up to themto get out on the street, start picking up the phones and askingawkward questions.Lisa: For more information on Benefit Claimants Fight Back theirwebsite is at benefitclaimantsfightback.wordpress.com or they tweet as@claimantprotestWe’ll be back again next week, or sometime around there. With us allbeing sickly types we can’t promise we’ll be able to keep to a strictschedule of weekly podcasts. But we’ll try our best.In the meantime you can find our blog atwheresthebenefit.blogspot.com, you can ‘like’ us on facebook by goingto www.facebook.com/wheresthebenefit. You can follow us on twitter@wheresbenefit (there’s a character limit on twitter usernames and wedidn’t have room for the “the”. So we’re just @wheresbenefit) or ifyou’ve got anything you want to ask us, or you’d like to pitch us aguest post for our blog then you can Email us atwheresthebenefit *at* gmail *dot* comThanks for listening!