1. ITV Report

Protest in Cardiff over tests for incapacity benefit

A group of protesters will demonstrate in Cardiff today against the company that carries out 'Work Capability Tests' for the Department of Work and Pensions.

Disabled people seeking to qualify for the Incapacity Benefit in the UK are currently assessed by the international company Atos Healthcare.

The group 'Disabled People Against Cuts' will stage a protest at the Aneurin Bevan statue in Cardiff's Queen Street as part of a UK-wide protest against the company, which is also a sponsor of the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

Former serviceman Jonathan Williams from Pontypool will be amongst the protesters in Cardiff tomorrow.

Describing himself as "40 per cent disabled", Mr Williams fears he will lose his disability allowance because of the tests performed by Atos on behalf of the DWP.

Campaigners for disability rights protested outside the Atos assessment centre in Swansea yesterday for the same cause.

However, Atos Healthcare maintain that the company does not make decisions on an individual's entitlement to a benefit, with this responsibility being held by the Department of Work and Pensions.

Atos said the Work Capability Assessments it carried out were 'in line with the policy and guidelines laid down by the UK Government.'

The Department for Work and Pensions first awarded Atos the contract for assessments in 1998.

This was renewed for seven years in 2005 and extended for three years in 2010 through to 2015.

Addressing this week's protests in Wales, an Atos spokesperson said:

We fully respect people's right to peaceful protest and we understand this is a highly emotive issue.

We do not make decisions on people's benefit entitlement or on welfare policy but we will continue to make sure that service that we provide is as highly professional and compassionate as it can be.

We do this through a constant programme of training and education for our staff, a rigorous recruitment process for healthcare professionals and through continual work with the Government, disability rights groups, healthcare professionals and those going through the process on the ground.

– Atos Healthcare spokesperson

Members of the British Medical Association voiced their concerns over Atos' status as the DWP's assessor earlier this year.

At its annual representative meeting this year, BMA members called for the end of Work Capability Assessment as they are currently performed by Atos.

At the meeting, the BMA resolution demanded:

That this meeting in respect of Work Capability Assessments (WCA) as performed by Atos Healthcare:

i) Believes that the inadequate computer-based assessments that are used have little regard to the nature or complexity of the needs of long term sick and disabled persons

ii) Calls on the BMA to demand that the WCA should end with immediate effect and be replaced with a rigorous and safe system that does not cause avoidable harm to some of the weakest and most vulnerable in society

iii) Calls on the BMA to work with disability groups and political parties to change public policy on this issue.

– BMA Annual Representative Meeting

In response to this week's protests, a Government spokesperson for the Department of Work and Pensions said:

LOCOG and the International Paralympics Committee make all decisions on sponsorship for the Olympics. All the partners provide vital funding without which the Games would not happen and they operate within the supplier guidelines.

It's disappointing that Disabled People Against Cuts are protesting against sponsorship of the Paralympic Games, which is an opportunity to showcase the talents of disabled people and act as a catalyst for our sporting talents of the future.

– UK Government spokesperson

Atos Healthcare is a subsidiary of Atos Origin, which is a worldwide organisation.