Protests over healthcare firm paid to decide Islington benefit claims

More than 70 people gathered last week to protest against Atos Healthcare, the company which assess benefits claims for the government.

Members of several groups, including Islington Disabled People Against Cuts, Winvisible and UK Uncut demonstrated outside the Business Design Centre in Upper Street, Islington, where Atos were part of a conference.

The rally was one of a number nationwide to highlight concerns over the way the company assess benefit claims, 70 per cent of which are overturned on appeal.

It was the third demonstration against the company in the area since June.

Claire Glasman, 51, a member of Winvisible, said: “They are not a medical company and the government has asked them to save billions of pounds and the consequences for people are devastating.

“There are people with heart conditions ruled fit to work dying before their second assessment. I have cerebal palsy and it’s very worrying.

“Now an ex-chief executive of Atos is on the board of the Paralympics. It’s a kick in the teeth and makes a mockery of what they say about being pro-disability. It would be a powerful message if there was a call for disabled people to boycott the games.”

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A spokeswoman for the company said: “Atos Healthcare is contracted by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to carry out independent assessments on health-related benefits.

“These assessments are conducted by healthcare professionals, who receive comprehensive training in disability assessment, including courses accredited by the University of Derby.

“The DWP make the decisions on claims for all benefits and the results of the assessments by Atos Healthcare have no bearing on our targets or remuneration.”