ILF judicial review: DWP ‘misled public’ over local government support

ILF judicial review: DWP ‘misled public’ over local government support

Research by disabled activists suggests that the government misled MPs and the public about the level of support among local authorities for the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF).

The results of the research by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) have played a central role in this week’s judicial review of how the government responded to a consultation on its plans to close ILF in 2015.

Five ILF-users have been taking on the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in the high court, arguing that its consultation was unlawful and so its decision to close ILF – a government-funded trust which helps about 19,000 disabled people with the highest support needs – should be reversed.

Esther McVey, the Conservative minister for disabled people, confirmed last year that ILF would close in April 2015, with non-ring-fenced funding passed to local authorities and the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

But there is overwhelming opposition to the closure among disabled people, with many believing that it threatens their right to independent living.

DPAC’s research saw councils asked – via Freedom of Information (FoI) Act requests – how they had responded to the consultation.

DWP claimed in its response to the consultation that “most councils… expressed strong support for the proposal in principle”, but DPAC says the FoI material shows that that was a “total misrepresentation”.

At least nine of about 80 councils that responded to the consultation in writing appear to have opposed the government’s plans, while many more expressed grave reservations.

The FoI material seems to show that only one of the local authorities agreed with the government that the funding should not be ring-fenced, while the vast majority told DWP it had not provided them with enough information to answer its consultation properly.

A significant number of the councils said they believed the government’s plans would result in disabled people ending up in residential care.

Aberdeen council, one of the councils that said it opposed closure, stated in its consultation response: “It is not an attractive proposition for local authorities when the impact on individuals is considered.”

Barking and Dagenham council told the government: “The consultation document appears to suggest that funding for individuals would not be maintained at current levels and this will have a devastating impact on individuals’ lives.”

And Conservative-run Hertfordshire County Council said: “No we do not agree with this proposal.”

It added: “Local authorities are having to apply eligibility criteria with increasing rigor and there is a fear that people’s funding will have to be reduced to the minimum amount required to ‘maintain’ their lives rather than supporting full and active lives, including support with employment.”

Another Conservative council, Cheshire West and Chester, also refused to back closing ILF and devolving the money to local authorities. It said that DWP’s consultation paper “leaves too many questions unanswered”.

The five claimants are asking the high court to quash the decision to close ILF. Judgment in the case has been reserved, and is expected within four weeks.

14 March 2013

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

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Atos nurses were told: ‘You’re too nice to work here’

Two nurses who resigned from the government’s “fitness for work” contractor Atos Healthcare because it was “cut-throat” and “ruthless” have described how they were criticised by their managers for being “too nice”.

They spoke out only days after the latest report to criticise Atos was published by the Commons public accounts committee, which said the company had carried out “thousands of poorly administered tests each year”.

Last month, opposition MPs also lined up during a Commons debate to criticise Atos for the way it has carried out the contract to assess claimants of the new employment and support allowance (ESA), the replacement for incapacity benefit.

Disabled activists have held a string of protests aimed at highlighting the damage they say Atos has caused disabled people.

The grassroots campaign group Disabled People Against Cuts has accused Atos of finding people in comas and with terminal illnesses fit for work, using “an inhumane computer programme” to carry out assessments, and training staff “to push people off benefits”.

Now two nurses who worked at the company have added their weight to concerns about the way it operates, although Atos has refuted their claims.

One of the nurses says she and other assessors were constantly monitored on the number of claimants they recommended should be placed in the support group.

Jane*, who has posted her own account of her experiences on the Atos Victims website, said: “There was a percentage. If you were above that percentage they would review all of your cases. If you put too many in, you had to be monitored and you would have to get permission to put any more in the support group. There was a limit.”

Although she has no proof, she is convinced Atos has been given targets by the Department for Work and Pensions for the number of claimants it finds “fit for work”.

Those colleagues who were more ruthless with their assessments and found more claimants fit for work were “praised” by managers, she says.

Jane, who worked at Atos for a few months last year, said assessors were “taught to be cut-throat”.

She said: “It was drilled into you that you were not allowed to show any emotion. You couldn’t care. You weren’t allowed to care.”

On one occasion, after she had taken longer than usual to carry out an assessment, she was taken aside by a manager and told: “You’re not there to talk, you’re there to do an assessment. You’re not there to care.

“You are too nice, but that will come with experience. You’ll harden up.’”

On another occasion, she had been forced to abandon an assessment – following the correct WCA procedures – because a woman had become so distressed by the assessment that she began hallucinating.

Jane sat with her in the “quiet room” for 35 minutes while she waited for her family to pick her up.

But when a manager found out how long she had spent with the woman, Jane was given a verbal warning and told: “You have got to stop being so nice. This will go on your record.”

Jane says Atos assessors were taught during their training to try to trip up claimants.

“You had to tease information out of them, so they would drop themselves in it. We were encouraged to try to get contradictory evidence by asking them to discuss their typical day-to-day activities.

“For example, if a claimant with mental health problems reported difficulty interacting with strangers, I was encouraged to find evidence from his typical day, no matter how simple, to prove this was not the case.

“One particular guy became quite aggressive with me. I asked for advice and my mentor told me: ‘Don’t worry, he’s not mad, just bad.’”

After her concerns reached one of the directors, he asked to see her. When she told him she did not feel as if she was helping anybody, he told her: “You are. You are saving so much money. That’s why we are here, to get these people back to work and bring down the level of benefits.”

Jane quit the job with Atos after only a few months, concerned that the work she was being asked to do could put her nursing registration at risk.

She said: “I just don’t think it is a job for a nurse. As soon as I got into the car in the morning, I felt sick, and I just didn’t want to go. It is a job I wish I had never done.”

She believes Atos should be stripped of its contract to carry out the assessments. “They are so ruthless. Somebody said to me that the job is ‘toxic’, and I think they are right.”

A second nurse, Joyce Drummond, who worked for Atos in Glasgow in 2009 – carrying out assessments for incapacity benefit, ESA’s predecessor – says she was also told by an Atos director that she was “too nice”.

She said: “I was so shocked to be told a nurse could be too nice. It was horrible. I thought I would help people get the benefits they were entitled to. When the penny dropped, my conscience wouldn’t let me carry on. I was coming home in tears. I couldn’t do it.”

Joyce agrees with Jane that assessors were taught to “trick” claimants, for example by asking them about their pet if they were depressed, and then noting down if they smiled when they talked about it.

“Everything was just twisted, nothing was like it seemed. Everything was aimed at catching people out.”

She insists that most of the people she saw had a “real reason” to claim the benefit, and there were only a small minority who were “trying to pull a fast one”.

Like Jane, she said she would feel “sick” at the thought of going to work for Atos every morning. Eventually, she left the company, and has not worked since. She believes the strain of working there contributed to her worsening health.

She has since had two assessments of her own from Atos assessors, both of which found her fit for work but were overturned on appeal. She was found fit for work for a third time last June, and is now awaiting her third tribunal.

Joyce believes Atos is “just in it for the money”. “They have forgotten their consciences. The feeling about the place was that somehow the people claiming benefit were different from the rest of us, a lower-class person.

“We were told quite bluntly: ‘They can always appeal.’ There was no respect for the people we were assessing.”

She added: “It is not a nurse’s job. A nurse is meant to have a duty of care for a patient, to have a bit of compassion. They are supposed to be advocates for their patients.”

An Atos spokeswoman said: “We refute these claims. We know how difficult this process can be for people and we employ only highly-trained doctors, nurses and physiotherapists to carry out the work capability assessment, many of whom come directly from the NHS.

“We work extremely hard on providing a professional and compassionate service and our customer satisfaction survey measures how courteous, polite and gentle our practitioners are. Our scores in this area are very highly rated, consistently over 90 per cent.

“We take care to look after our healthcare staff, all of whom are aware of and have access to our employment assistance programme, which provides a confidential free-phone helpline and face-to-face counselling.”

*Not her real name

14 February 2013

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

Artist will stare “fitness for work” fears in the face with public exposure of her bed life

An award-winning disabled artist is to spend three days in bed in front of an audience, in an attempt to portray the contradictions of her impairment, and the government’s “miserable, terrifying, punishing” fitness for work assessment regime.

The writer-director-activist Liz Crow is forced to spend much of her life in bed because of her impairment, but has always managed to keep that part of herself hidden from view.

“I have developed this incredibly stark way of living,” she says, “and what other people see of me in public spaces is not how I am for most of my life. Even the people close to me don’t really know me at the most extreme.”

In Bedding In, she will make her “twilight existence visible”, exposing the part of her life she spends in bed to public scrutiny, and for the first time “parading” this private self in public.

The piece, part of this year’s SPILL Festival of Performance, in Ipswich, is Crow’s response to the government’s harsh benefits reassessment programme.

But rather than lying low for fear of being penalised by the Department for Work and Pensions, she has decided to “stare that fear in the face”.

She is one of the hundreds of thousands of long-time incapacity benefit claimants who have been tested through the government’s reassessment programme, and subjected to the infamous work capability assessment, carried out by the government’s contractor Atos Healthcare.

Even though Crow has used a wheelchair for 26 years, Atos decided that she had no difficulty walking. She was placed in the work-related activity group (WRAG), for those thought able to move towards paid work.

But she knows she cannot make herself available for work, and so – unless she wins her appeal – she has resigned herself to having her benefits taken away because of the inevitable failure to co-operate with the regime.

“The consequences are that I may have no income coming in and don’t know how as a single parent I will care for my child, let alone my home, etc.”

Less than two weeks after her performance ends, she will need to parade her private self again, when she appeals to a tribunal against the decision to place her in the WRAG.

Crow is clear that she wants Bedding In to be about the complexity of her impairment, and not its “tragedy”.
“I live a pretty good life with the complicated set of circumstances that I have got,” she says, “but if I step out of my bed then it is not seen as complexity or contradiction, and in the current benefits system it means you fall through the gaps.”

Each day during the performance at Ipswich Art School Gallery, members of the public will gather around her bed to discuss the work, and its politics. The hope is that Crow will take the “data” from these conversations and use them to further develop the piece.

“It is a political statement,” she says of the performance, “but it is also trying to make visible this kind of internal wrestling that goes on for a lot of us with the benefits stuff.

“Since I got personal assistants 15 years ago I have managed to find a kind of fragile security in my life. I have rarely earned but I have, I hope, contributed.

“Now the benefits thing has kicked in it has all gone. Suddenly I don’t feel I have any security left whatsoever.”
Even if she wins her appeal, she faces the likely prospect of being reassessed again in another year or so, and then again, and again.

“The idea that this is life now: that is just dire. There are hundreds of thousands of us going through this assessment. There is some small comfort that there are a lot of us in it together but it is not much comfort because of the toll it takes.

“I have this tiny amount of time when I am well enough to do stuff and I am looking at that time being taken away.

“It has been really hard to create the life I have got, a reasonable life, and this big system comes along with these politicians who are so extraordinarily removed from a life like mine and they demolish what I have built up.”

The whole process feels, she says, like “punishment”, not assessment, “an endless round of justifying myself and fighting for a grain of security”.

“There are layers and layers of why it is so hard. One of the things is that if you fall through the gaps, for the press it is evidence that you are a scrounger and a fraudster.”

She is among the many disabled activists who believe that this cruel assessment process – and the callous and incompetent way it is carried out by Atos – are responsible for the premature deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of disabled people.

Even if these deaths are not caused by the process, she says, “actually they died among all this shit, their last few months were so miserable and so frightening, and I think that’s unforgivable. To condemn people to a really miserable last few months is diabolical.”

Crow feels there is an affinity between her performance and the direct action protest carried out by members of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) at Marble Arch in central London last weekend.

One of the reasons she is so impressed with DPAC’s campaigning work, she says, is that “they have created an incredible visible presence but have found ways for all sorts of people to contribute”, particularly through social media.

She also sees links with her most recent piece of work, Resistance, an award-winning video installation about the Aktion-T4 programme, which led to the targeted killing of as many as 200,000 disabled people, and possibly many more, in Nazi Germany.

She began working on Resistance in 2008, and started thinking about its themes several years earlier, and felt even then that there were contemporary “connections”.

“Those contemporary connections have just got stronger and stronger,” she says. “I am appalled to feel that we are under greater threat now than we have been in all the years I have been involved in activism.”

She points to newspaper reports of alleged disability benefit fraud and the use of language like “shirkers”, “scroungers” and “fakers” to describe disabled people. This kind of propaganda, she says, is “eerily familiar” from descriptions of pre-Holocaust Germany.

The “specifics” of what is happening now are not the same as in Nazi Germany, she adds, but “the values beneath it are, this idea that we are somehow dispensable, more dispensable than others”.

She also points to the Paralympics, which she says “makes the scrounger-fraudster rhetoric stronger, and leads to a backlash”.

There are even similarities between the Paralympic classification system, and the benefits assessment system. Both suit those who have a “bio-mechanical, quantifiable impairment”, rather than less clear and easily-determined impairments.

Would-be Paralympians with “nebulous impairments” fall through the gaps, she says, just as she and many tens of thousands of other disabled people have fallen through the yawning gaps in the benefits system.

Bedding In is part of Disability Arts Online’s Diverse Perspectives project, which is funded by Arts Council England, and is commissioning eight disabled artists to make new artwork that “sparks conversations and debate about the creative case for diversity”.

Bedding In takes place at the Ipswich Art School Gallery from 1-3 November, from 11am to 6pm, as part of the SPILL Festival of Performance in Ipswich.

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

Protesters bring ‘terrifying’ battle to save ILF to new minister’s front door

Disabled people with high support needs who protested outside government offices have described the “terrifying” reality they face if the coalition pushes ahead with plans to abolish the Independent Living Fund (ILF) in 2015.

Protesters from Disabled People Against Cuts – many of them ILF-users – gathered outside the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) Caxton House building in Whitehall today (Thursday), and delivered a letter to the new Conservative minister for disabled people, Esther McVey.

The letter asks for a meeting with the minister and stresses the vital role ILF plays in the lives of those who use it, allowing them to “live in the community, to go to university and in many cases work and pay taxes”.

The DWP is consulting on the closure of ILF, which will see non-ring-fenced funding passed to local authorities and the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Protesters believe the plans to close ILF – a government-funded trust which helps about 19,700 disabled people with the highest support needs – are a huge threat to their right to independent living.

They say the government’s consultation paper offers no details on how councils – already facing huge financial pressures – will be able to meet the extra support costs of disabled people who previously received ILF money.

Comedian and performer Liz Carr, an ILF-user and one of the protesters, said she will lose half of her care package when ILF closes, the equivalent of three-and-a-half days of assistance a week.

If that happens, she will have to use the remaining support for essentials such as personal care.

She said: “I am absolutely terrified about that magic number 2015 and I am equally absolutely terrified for people who don’t have a voice and don’t realise what is going to happen and don’t have somebody fighting on their behalf.”

She said she had no idea what her life would look like when ILF closed because of the many other areas where disabled people were being “squeezed” financially.

But she said: “I know the freedom and independence I have will not exist when ILF is removed. I think residential care will be the only option for many, many disabled people.

“I am going to make sure myself and my friends go down fighting.”

Sam, another protester, a wheelchair-user who is also a recovering alcoholic, said he believed he would end up back on the streets if he lost his ILF money, because he would lose his personal assistant and the rest of his support network.

He said: “If I felt isolated enough in my house, I would feel what else would I have and would go back to where I have got friends, on the road.”

Earlier, a Commons meeting organised by DPAC – and attended by Labour MPs Dame Anne Begg, John McDonnell, Dame Joan Ruddock and Katy Clark – heard that lawyers had taken the first step in a possible judicial review of the government’s failure to conduct a proper consultation on the ILF closure.

Stuart Bracking, a DPAC member and ILF-user, told the meeting that the government’s decision to set up ILF in 1988 had been a result of 20 years of campaigning by the disability movement, and had “revolutionised the social opportunities of a generation of disabled people… and that is what is at stake”.

Tracey Lazard, chief executive of Inclusion London, said local authorities were already “cutting support to the bone” and were tightening eligibility and “increasing rationing”, so would “not have the resources” to fill the gap left by the ILF closure.

She said the costs of administering ILF were far lower (at two per cent) than for the care and support provided by social services (16 per cent).

Clark, the MP for North Ayrshire and Arran, told the meeting: “It is absolutely appalling that this government has proceeded with these proposals which must be going to have an absolutely devastating effect.

“Local authorities are not going to be able to take up the slack, even if they wish to.”

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

MP calls for inquiry into police protest violence

An MP has called for an inquiry into the “violence” of police officers against disabled activists who took part in a protest at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

The Labour MP John McDonnell made the call during a Commons debate on Atos Healthcare, the much-criticised company that carries out “fitness for work” assessments on disabled people.

He said he supported the groups that had organised five days of protests against Atos’s sponsorship of the London 2012 Paralympics, and said he was “calling for an inquiry into violence against people with disabilities who protested last week at the Department for Work and Pensions”.

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), the grassroots campaign group that led the protest at the DWP’s Caxton House building in Whitehall on Friday, has welcomed McDonnell’s call.

DPAC’s steering group will be discussing McDonnell’s comments and a likely complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Commission at a meeting tonight (Friday).

One of the wheelchair-users who took part in the protest is already considering legal action against the Metropolitan police, after he was left with a fractured shoulder when officers tried to break up the peaceful protest.

Another protester, Adam Lotun, had to be held in his wheelchair by fellow activists as officers tried to drag his chair away.

DPAC said the police’s use of force was “excessive, unnecessary, reckless and contravened our right to peaceful protest”, and that it was “difficult to see the police response as anything other than an attempt to provoke a violent reaction from the protesters”.

It is the latest incident in which Metropolitan police officers have been accused of using excessive force against disabled activists, particularly those using wheelchairs.

The Caxton House action was part of a week of protests held to highlight Atos’s role in carrying out “fitness for work” assessments for the government, and widespread anger that the company has been a major sponsor of the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

Six DPAC activists – and two supporters – occupied the lobby of Caxton House, while four others chained themselves to each other to block the entrance.

They asked to see Maria Miller, at that point still the Conservative minister for disabled people – but were told she was not in the building – and delivered a series of demands, including that Atos should be removed from the contract to assess disabled people for their fitness for work, and that Miller should reverse her decision to close the Independent Living Fund.

Earlier, there had been a “fabulous and joyous” action organised by DPAC and the mainstream protest group UK Uncut outside the London headquarters of Atos, as the final element in a week of protests they called the “Atos Games”.

Hundreds of campaigners fired water pistols, party poppers, blew bubbles, threw water balloons, and performed Atos-style “miracles” to satirise the company’s apparent ability to cure people’s health conditions.

A small group of protesters then left to target the DWP’s Caxton House offices in Westminster, and were later joined by many more of those who had taken part in the earlier protest, including many prominent DPAC members.

But DPAC activists were astonished at how the police responded to the DWP protest.

DPAC has been involved in a series of high-profile direct actions over the last year, and had developed a friendly working relationship with senior officers from the Metropolitan police.

But that appeared to change on Friday afternoon.

Lotun, one of the wheelchair-users who was caught in the crush, said: “I was the first one the police collided into. They knew there were five wheelchair-users in front of them. To get past them they were really going to have to rough-house them.”

He said police tried to pull him out of his wheelchair, which was damaged. He said the Met needed to produce a policy urgently on how to deal with wheelchair-users and other disabled people during protests.

He said: “They do really need to know how they are going to deal with disabled people. People in wheelchairs are going to get hurt. They are not going to get out of the way.”

Andy Greene, one of the DPAC activists who had blocked the doors of Caxton House, said a row of police officers “pushed and pushed and pushed” the protesters towards another line of officers who were already positioned in front of the doors.

He said: “We were staggered by the response, by the physicality, it was so out of left field.”

Despite shouted warnings that there were disabled people with hidden impairments in the crowd, he said, the police continued to squeeze the protesters.

But DPAC say some officers were even more aggressive, with one grabbing a man with learning difficulties around the neck and pushing him against a wall, before being pulled away by a colleague.

Greene said there had not been any trouble in a string of previous DPAC protests over the last year.

“We have not had one incident or trouble at any time. The police have [until this protest] been fantastic.

“Every other time the police have been engaging, conversational and instructive but yesterday they actually ignored us for the first hour.”

A police spokeswoman said that one man was arrested for breach of the peace and obstructing police. He was taken to a police station and later bailed to return to another station in October.

She said that officers deployed to “unplanned protests” would “always make a dynamic assessment of the situation being policed, and will take into account the environment, type of protest, intentions of the crowd and circumstances of those protesting”.

But she said that “all police officers are accountable for their actions”, and added: “Anyone who is unhappy with any aspect of the policing of an event should contact the Metropolitan Police Service so any complaints can be thoroughly investigated”.

Police have so far failed to comment on McDonnell’s calls for an inquiry.

Meanwhile, Lotun has announced that he will stand as an independent candidate at the by-election in Corby on 15 November, caused by the decision of the Conservative MP Louise Mensch to stand down.

Lotun’s wide-ranging manifesto calls for welfare reforms that are “fair to all and fit for purpose”, criticises cuts to disability benefits, and calls for legalisation of cannabis use for medicinal purposes.

He said he was standing on a platform of “anti-discrimination, anti-cuts, anti-warfare and a return to common sense leadership”.

Among his policies he wants to scrap the “fitness for work” assessment and remove the contract to carry it out from Atos.

He said he had already secured support from some Liberal Democrats.

He added: “I am fighting for common sense, not just for disabled people.”

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

London 2012: LOCOG boss praises Atos, as protesters pledge to ‘hound and harass’

The chief executive of London 2012 has praised the Paralympic sponsor Atos, less than a day after nearly 100 activists – including a retired Paralympian – launched a week of protests over its involvement in the games.

Paul Deighton, chief executive of the London 2012 organising committee LOCOG, had been asked by a foreign journalist whether it was wise “in hindsight” to accept Atos as a sponsor, because of the controversy surrounding its work for the government assessing disabled people for out-of-work disability benefits.

But Deighton launched into an impassioned defence of Atos, saying it was an “incredibly valuable technology partner”, providing the IT systems for both managing the accreditation process and providing competition results for London 2012.

He said Atos was an “absolutely critical and valuable” part of delivering the Paralympics, and that without Atos and the other London 2012 sponsors “neither games would be what they are”.

The previous day, the grassroots campaign groups Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and UK Uncut were joined by the accessible transport organisation Transport for All for their own spoof “opening ceremony” of the “Atos Games”, five days of protests aimed at highlighting the damage the company has done to disabled people across the country.

The ceremony beside City Hall, the London mayor’s headquarters, featured three disabled activists being awarded medals for the Atos Games, before they were “reassessed” by Atos and told they were “undeserving of state support”, and could no longer be an “active, contributing member of society”, and had their medals cut off, and their benefits removed.

Tara Flood, who competed in three Paralympic Games, and won gold, silver and bronze medals in the pool in Barcelona in 1992, was awarded the Atos “gold medal”.

She said afterwards that it had been important for her to take part in the protest, as a retired Paralympian, so that the public was able to “link disabled people’s disgust” with Atos to the London Paralympics.

Flood said it was important for the government to realise that it “can’t only be proud of elite, medal-winning athletes. Someone like me, as a retired Paralympian, can make sure everyone makes that connection.”

DPAC stressed that it recognised “the commitment, the effort and the sacrifice” of Britain’s Paralympians, but that Atos had “hounded and harassed disabled people the length of this country” and was now seeking “to bask in the reflected glory” of Paralympians by sponsoring the games.

DPAC described at the ceremony how people in comas and with terminal illnesses had been found fit for work by Atos assessors, and how the company tries to “convince us that they respect the commitment of disabled athletes” while “trampling all over disabled people’s commitment to overcoming barriers and having aspirations beyond eating and sleeping”.

DPAC also warned that Paralympians would soon find themselves being reassessed by Atos for their disability living allowance (DLA), as DLA is gradually replaced from next year with the new personal independence payment, with an estimated one in five losing their support.

And it warned that DPAC would “hound and harass Atos the length of this country… in parliament, in the courts, online, and on the streets”.

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

London 2012: Campaigners refuse to target blameless athletes over Atos

Disabled activists who have prepared a national week of protests against the Paralympic sponsor Atos have explained why they chose not to target the London 2012 games themselves.

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) had suggested previously that they could target this week’s Paralympic torch relay, with a direct action protest at the decision to allow Atos to sponsor the games despite the anger surrounding its work for the government in assessing people for out-of-work disability benefits.

But the torch relay – which was low-key in comparison with the much longer Olympic version – passed off without any protests disrupting its progress.

DPAC has also been encouraged by suggestions – although not confirmed by any Paralympic athletes – that members of the ParalympicsGB team who attended the opening ceremony on Wednesday might have deliberately hidden their accreditation beneath their uniform because the strap – or lanyard – prominently features the Atos logo.

Andy Greene, a member of DPAC’s steering group, said: “If it is the case that athletes have hidden their lanyards we commend and applaud those actions.

“We welcome their support and hope they will make more stands during these games, and come out and say what is on their minds as soon as they can.”

But he made it clear that he and his fellow DPAC campaigners would not be targeting the athletes, sporting events, or the games themselves.

He said they wanted the public to understand instead that they were targeting the “hypocrisy” of Atos sponsoring London 2012.

He said: “Our problem was with Atos and we wanted to make that really, really clear. We kept away from the Olympic Park and the torch relay and the opening ceremony.”

Greene said targeting the torch relay had been considered, but DPAC decided that such a protest would be “divisive”.

He said: “We had conversations with other people and it was the same feeling. People didn’t have a problem with the Paralympics, or the athletes. It was Atos that was the target.”

Instead of targeting London 2012, DPAC and other grassroots campaigning bodies have focused their attention on a week-long series of protests they have called the “Atos Games”, including a spoof “opening ceremony” on Monday – featuring retired Paralympian Tara Flood – and nationwide protests.

On Wednesday, campaigners delivered a coffin full of messages to Atos’s headquarters in central London, each note describing a disabled person’s experience at the hands of Atos assessors.

This protest aimed to draw attention to the estimated 1,100 people who died within six months of being found “fit for work” by an Atos “healthcare professional”, over just an eight-month period.

The DPAC coffin was turned away by Atos staff, but the company did accept the messages.

The protest was designed as a “poignant memorial” to those who have died, and so there was no attempt to occupy the offices.

Greene said the week had so far gone “fantastically well”, with more than 20 protests across the UK on Tuesday, including major actions in Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle and Birmingham.

He said the protests had drawn widespread media attention for the first time, including a front page story in The Independent.

Campaigners from DPAC were due back tomorrow (Friday) at the Atos headquarters, along with members of the mainstream grassroots anti-cuts group UK Uncut, for a protest they are calling the Closing Atos Ceremony.

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com