Ask Your MP to Vote Against the Tories’ Brutal Treatment of the Disabled, as ATOS Resign from Conducting Disability Assessments

It’s been some time since I wrote about this wretched government’s vile assault on the disabled, through the rigged assessments (the Work Capability Assessments) administered by the multinational company Atos Healthcare, and designed to find as many mentally and physically disabled people as possible “fit for work” so their support can be cut. See some of my previous articles – Doctors Urge Government to Scrap Callous Disability TestsWhere is the Shame and Anger as the UK Government’s Unbridled Assault on the Disabled Continues?Photos of the Paralympics Demonstration Against Atos Healthcare in LondonCall Time on This Wretched Government and Its Assault on the DisabledThe Tories’ Cruelty Is Laid Bare as Multiple Welfare Cuts Bite and Photos: The 10,000 Cuts and Counting Protest in Parliament Square, September 28, 2013.

Nevertheless, not a day has gone by without me thinking about the horrors of life under the Tories — and their assault not just on the disabled but also on the unemployed and the underpaid — and being close to despair at how my fellow citizens, in significant numbers, have embraced the filthy lies spewing from the lying lips of ministers and the merchants of hatred and division in the tabloid newspapers.

In response to this assault, campaigners launched an e-petition in December 2012,  which became known as the WOW petition (war on welfare), and which called for a cumulative impact assessment of all cuts and changes affecting sick and disabled people, their families and carers, and an immediate end to the Work Capability Assessment, as voted for by the British Medical Association in June 2012. Read the rest of this entry »

Photos: The 10,000 Cuts and Counting Protest in Parliament Square, September 28, 2013

10,000 Cuts and CountingA sea of flowers at the 10,000 Cuts and Counting protestAtos kills; enough is enoughMichael Meacher MP speaks at the 10,000 Cuts and Counting protestOne death is one too many!The Dean of St. Paul's and a campaigner
Killers: Atos and the governmentThe crowd at the 10,000 Cuts and Counting protestDisabled campaigners at the 10,000 Cuts and Counting protestDisabled People Against CutsThe poet Dickie Lupton at the 10,000 Cuts and Counting protestThe Gunpowder Plot
Louise Irvine GP speaks at the 10,000 Cuts and Counting protestJohn McDonnell MP speaks at the 10,000 Cuts and Counting protestRick B and Jane of the WOW Petition at the 10,000 Cuts and Counting protestAlison Playford and Ian Chamberlain at the 10,000 Cuts and Counting protest

The 10,000 Cuts and Counting Protest in Parliament Square, September 28, 2013, a set on Flickr.

On Saturday September 29, disability activists, the Very Rev. David Ison, the Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral, the MP Michael Meacher and representatives of the Occupy movement held a protest in Parliament Square entitled “10,000 Cuts and Counting,” at which and John McDonnell MP and Louise Irvine, a GP and member of the British Medical Association (BMA) and the National Health Action Party, also spoke.

The event was described as “a ceremony of remembrance and solidarity for those who have had their lives devastated by the austerity programme, including more than 10,000 people who died shortly after undergoing the Atos Work Capability Assessment, the degrading test used by the government to assess the needs of people receiving benefits related to disability and ill health.”

In my many articles about the Tory-led government’s relentless and disgraceful assault on the disabled, I refer to the assessments as a process designed to find mentally and physically disabled people fit for work, when they are not, as it has been clear from the beginning that Atos has been hired not to conduct objective evaluations, but to cut financial support for disabled people on the orders of the government. Read the rest of this entry »

Is the Tide Turning Against the Tories, as Labour Pledges to Scrap the Bedroom Tax and Sack Atos?

Ever since the Tory-led coalition government got into power and ministers made it clear that they were seeking to do as much damage as possible to the poor, the ill, the unemployed and the disabled, and to dismantle, if possible, every state-owned enterprise, and anything that expresses some notion of communality and doesn’t involve naked profiteering, misery and uncertainty have been on the rise, and with good reason.

As I have stated in numerous articles over the last few years, the assault on the unemployed and disabled has been particularly heart-wrenching, as the Tories, their spin doctors, their Lib Dem accomplices and their cheerleaders in the mainstream media have portrayed the unemployed as skivers, despite there being only one job available for every five of the country’s 2.5 million unemployed, and have portrayed disabled people with similar flint-hearted distortions.

As a result, wave after wave of vile policies have been introduced with very little outrage from people who probably don’t regard themselves as particularly cruel or heartless — the reviews for the disabled, run by Atos Healthcare, which are designed to find people with severe mental and physical disabilities fit for work, so that their benefits can be cut; the workfare programs for the unemployed that are akin to slavery and allow well-off companies to fundamentally undermine the minimum wage; and the overall benefit cap, the most popular policy in this new Cruel Britannia, according to a YouGov poll in April, in which 79 per cent of people, including 71 per cent of Labour voters, supported it. This is forcing tens of thousands of families to uproot themselves — with all the attendant social costs, particularly for their children — and move to cheaper places, which tend to be those with high unemployment, creating ghettoes, as part of a disgraceful process of social cleansing. Read the rest of this entry »

Petition and Protest: Stop This Callous Government’s Sickening War on the Disabled

Please sign the petition to the British government to end the “War on Welfare,” which currently has over 55,000 signatures but needs 100,000 to be eligible for a Parliamentary debate, and, if you can, come to the ’10,000 Cuts & Counting’ protest in Parliament Square on Saturday September 28. 

The British government’s assault on the poor, the ill, the unemployed and the disabled is so disgraceful that it’s often difficult to know which particular horror is the worst, although every time that their attacks on the disabled come under the spotlight I’m reminded of the importance of the saying, “The mark of a civilised society is how it treats its most vulnerable members” — attributed, in various forms, to Mahatma Gandhi, Winston Churchill and Harry S. Truman — and it strikes me that the most disgusting of all the oppressive policies directed at the most vulnerable members of society by sadistic Tories masquerading as competent politicians — backed up by their Lib Dem facilitators and the majority of the mainstream media — is their war on the disabled.

The people behind these assaults overwhelmingly identify themselves as Christians, even though no trace of Christian values exists in their policies, and they are, instead, waging war on the very people that Christ would have told them are in need of their protection most of all.

I have been covering the government’s war on the disabled since 2011 (see my archive of articles here and here), and a brief explanation of what has been happening can be found in an article I wrote last August, in which I explained: Read the rest of this entry »

Photos: A Year of Protest – The NHS, Disabled Rights, Guantánamo, Bradley Manning and the Occupy Movement

OccupyPeople Before Profit: An Occupy protestor at the Bank of EnglandStudents against AtosDisabled. Socialist. Artist. I'm screwed.I was saved by Lewisham HospitalSave Lewisham Hospital: A child protests
Close Guantánamo: Protestors outside the US Supreme CourtInaugurate Justice, Close GuantánamoClose GuantánamoCode PinkProud to be born in Lewisham HospitalTriplets born at Lewisham Hospital
Free Shaker Aamer from GuantánamoSave the NHS from the profiteersRoses are red, Violets are blue, We need our A&Es kept open by youThe family born in Lewisham HospitalLocal rapper Question at "Born in Lewisham" protestNHS campaigners call for the government to drop NHS privatisation plans
A "die-in" for the NHS, on the road in front of ParliamentAndy Worthington and Jean Lambert with Shaker Aamer's childrenShaker Aamer: where's the justice?Need Not Greed: Save the NHSVivienne Westwood at "WikiLeaks: The Bradley Manning Story," London, May 8, 2013Julian Assange at "WikiLeaks: The Bradley Manning Story," London, May 8, 2013

A Year of Protest – The NHS, Disabled Rights, Guantánamo, Bradley Manning and the Occupy Movement, a set on Flickr.

A year ago yesterday, I embarked on a huge and ongoing project — to photograph the whole of London by bike. A year and a day later, I have taken around 13,000 photos, and have published nearly 1,700 on Flickr. As it happens, my time has been so consumed of late with my ongoing campaign to close Guantánamo — where the prison-wide hunger strike, now in its fourth month, has finally awoken the world to the ongoing horrors of the prison — that I have not had time recently to publish photos from this project, although I have continued to take photos on an almost daily basis. I am currently organising the photos by area — largely, in fact, by postcode — as I work out how best to show them and to market them, but to mark the anniversary I will soon be posting a selection of photos from the first year of the project – and if anyone has any good ideas abut how to take tis project forward, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.

In the meantime, I realised that today — May 12 — is the first anniversary of an event organised by the worldwide Occupy movement (inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York), and that I had photographed the event that took place in London, and so, to coincide with that anniversary, I’ve put together a selection off photos from the various political campaigns and protests I’ve been involved in over the last year. Read the rest of this entry »

The Tories’ Cruelty Is Laid Bare as Multiple Welfare Cuts Bite

Ever since the Tories came to power in May 2010, aided by the Liberal Democrats, who, sadly, demonstrated that everything they professed to believe in could be discarded if it meant being in government, the very fabric of civil society in the UK has been faced with extinction. This is a country that has developed a welfare safety net to protect the most vulnerable members of society and those who have fallen on hard times, and one that has guaranteed healthcare for its entire population, through the NHS, paid for through general taxation, but the Tories are determined to destroy it, and far too many people have been fooled by their poisonous persecution of the poor and disabled, and their ideologically motivated “age of austerity,” which continues to ruin any chance of economic recovery, while plunging millions of people further into serious poverty.

On Monday, April 1, multiple welfare cuts hit hundreds of thousands of the poorest and most vulnerable members of society, and although two newspapers led with the news on their front pages — the Guardian (“The day Britain changed”) and the Daily Mirror (“D-Day for Savage Con-Dem Cuts”) — there is no sign that the British people, in general, have woken up to the full ramifications of what is being done in their name.

From the beginning of the Tories’ attack on the state, the government and large parts of the media have successfully lied about the unemployed and the disabled being scroungers and shirkers, creating a climate of mean-spiritedness and hatred amongst my fellow citizens that I have found to be both shocking and disgraceful, because the blunt truth, which anyone could find out if they could be bothered, is that there are around 2,500,000 people unemployed but only 500,000 job vacancies. Read the rest of this entry »

End the Tory Butchers’ Assault on the Disabled: For New Year, Please Sign the War on Welfare Petition

Please sign the “War on Welfare” petition now to call for an end the Tory-led government’s assault on the disabled!

Since the Tories came to power two years and seven months ago, with the assistance of the Liberal Democrats, they have reshaped the political landscape in the UK in the most horrific manner, launching a savage age of austerity aimed at the young, the working poor, the unemployed, the ill, the old and the disabled, in defiance of the Christian values they supposedly hold.

In response, a group of concerned citizens have launched an e-petition urging the government to change course, which already has over 9,000 signatures since its launch just three weeks ago, and needs 100,000 signatures by December 12, 2013 to be eligible for a Parliamentary debate. The “War on Welfare” petition, which has a website here, and is being promoted as the #wowpetition, calls for “a Cumulative Impact Assessment of Welfare Reform, and a New Deal for sick and disabled people based on their needs, abilities and ambitions.”

Driven by a Thatcherite and neo-conservative obsession with destroying the state (with a few exceptions, including their own salaries and expenses), the Tories have been taking advantage of the economic crisis created by bankers and politicians (themselves included) in the global crash of 2008 not to rein in the bankers, but to endorse the enthusiasm for austerity amongst so-called economists — those who have not learned that austerity measures in a recession lead only to economic collapse. Read the rest of this entry »

The End of Decency: Tories to Make Disabled People Work Unpaid for Their Benefits

What is wrong with the people of Britain? For two and a half years now, the Tory-led coalition government has been waging war on the most vulnerable members of society — the disabled — and hardly anyone seems to care. In order to cut the welfare bill, the government is paying a fortune to Atos Healthcare, a French-based multinational company, to conduct reviews of disabled people in order to find them fit for work, whether they are or not.

This process, which necessitates cruelty and indifference on the part of the assessors, is hugely stressful for the people subjected to the reviews, and has contributed to hundreds of deaths since it was first introduced (also see here and here for links to some harrowing stories).

I have been campaigning against it for the last two years — see, for example, my articles, Today the Tories Took £100 A Week from Some of the UK’s Most Disabled People: How Can This Be Right?, RIP Karen Sherlock, Another Victim of the Tories’ Brutal, Heartless Disability Reforms, Doctors Urge Government to Scrap Callous Disability Tests, Where is the Shame and Anger as the UK Government’s Unbridled Assault on the Disabled Continues? and Call Time on This Wretched Government and Its Assault on the Disabled. Read the rest of this entry »

Call Time on This Wretched Government and Its Assault on the Disabled

Please, please, please sign and promote the petition, initiated by Pat Onions and other disabled activists, calling for the British government to “stop and review the cuts to benefits and services which are falling disproportionately on disabled people, their carers and families.” The petition needs to reach 100,000 signatures by November 1 to be eligible for Parliamentary debate.

One month ago, the Paralympic Games came to an end, and there were hopes that, after two weeks in which disabled people had been the focus of the media and the British people, and had performed spectacularly well, the time might be ripe for those fortunate enough not to be physically or mentally disabled to realise that they were being lied to by their government, and that the Tories’ wretched assault on disabled people as cheats and scroungers was both cruel and deeply unfair.

In a cynical attempt to cut expenditure on welfare, the government has embarked upon a particularly horrific assault on the mentally and/or physically disabled through the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), administered by the French-based multinational company Atos Healthcare, and designed to find disabled people fit for work, even when, as in a heartbreakingly large number of cases, they are not.

In addition, hundreds of thousands of disabled people will lose between £20 and £131.50 a week when the ­Disability Living Allowance (DLA) that is a crucial part of their support is ­”replaced with the more restrictive ­Personal ­Independence Payments as part of a £2.2billion cost-cutting plan,” as the Sunday Mirror explained last month. As the Mirror also explained, “The DLA currently goes to around 3.2 million people at a cost of £12.6 billion a year. Analysts estimate up to 500,000 disabled people will have their allowance entirely withdrawn over the next four years as ­eligibility criteria is tightened.” Read the rest of this entry »

A Future for Occupy? Why We Need A Campaign for Genuinely Affordable Housing

A year ago, when Occupy Wall Street began, people occupying public spaces in large numbers and refusing to go home was innovative and radical, but then those spaces were reclaimed by the establishment — with violence, or through legal machinations — essentially bringing the first phase in this new era of protest and activism to an end.

Anyone thinking that the Occupy movement has gone away, however, is missing the point. Just as the movement introduced a powerful new concept — the 99 percent versus the 1 percent — into political discourse, so the complaints that motivated people to occupy public spaces in the first place have not gone away.

Essentially, we live in a broken system, broken by criminals who have not been held responsible for their actions, criminals on Wall Street and in the City of London and Canary Wharf, motivated by greed on a colossal scale, who, aided and abetted by venal and/or stupid politicians, crashed the global economy in 2008 but then got away with it.

Saved by government bailouts, the criminals continue to live lives of almost unprecedented wealth and greed, while the rest of the people — the 99 percent — are being made to pay for the crimes of these thieves through savage austerity programs that are driven by malignant ideologies and are also, it should be noted, economically suicidal. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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