Protest over assessments for disabled people

Protesters gather at Wingfield House in Portsmouth to voice their anger over work capability assessments by Atos
Protesters gather at Wingfield House in Portsmouth to voice their anger over work capability assessments by Atos
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PROTESTERS gathered outside a medical assessment centre to voice their anger over fit-for-work interviews for disabled and mentally-ill people.

Around 20 demonstrators with placards gathered at the Atos centre at Wingfield House, in Commercial Road, Portsmouth, which is where people to go to for work capability assessments to see if they are eligible for employment support allowance.

Protesters say that many people are being deemed fit for work – even though they have serious illnesses and cannot physically work.

They say people are being put through stressful medical interviews.

The rally was part of a national day of action across the country as protesters call on the government to no longer use French-run Atos to perform the assessments.

Lisa Fletcher, 38, the chairwoman of Unite Community Portsmouth, said: ‘We are here to protest because they don’t do a good job.

‘They should be dropped.

‘One of the issues is they are making people fit for work who are not fit for work – it’s disabled people, mentally-ill people, people dying of cancer.’

Protesters say people have died as a result of the stress caused by the assessments and being forced to go to work.

Christina Rissen, 50, from Denmead, who works with disabled people, wore a head bandage with blood stains and carried a placard saying ‘Fit for work’.

She said: ‘A lot of disabled people I know are having their benefits stopped, saying they are fit for work.

‘Even incontinent people have been told to go to work and change while they are there.

‘It’s really unfair.’

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is commissioning other private firms to add further capacity to the assessment system.

An Atos spokeswoman said: ‘We recognise that many people have strong feelings about work capability assessments.

‘The constant flow of criticism inevitably has an impact on our staff who diligently endeavour to carry out assessments as laid out in DWP guidelines.

‘We are committed to working with the department to help them meet their needs and the needs of claimants.’