Raising the curtain on Atos

This article first appeared on the New Internationalist website on 31 July 2012.

A cockroach, a tapeworm, herpes, a blood-sucking leech – just some of the terms used to describe Atos Healthcare by people who have come into contact with the company..

Assessments for disability and health related state benefits, conducted by Atos, have been hugely controversial. The company is paid by the British government’s Department for Work and Pensions to help decide who can work and who can’t, who keeps receiving money and who doesn’t. Not only are their results often found to be inaccurate, but the process can be lengthy and debilitating.

In September 2011, the Atos Stories collective started advertising online for people’s experiences of Work Capability Assessments with the aim of making them into plays. Judith Cole [a pseudonym] decided to set up the project after reading horror stories in the press. ‘I think I first saw the story that probably went around on Twitter about a poor guy who’d died of a heart attack after an Atos assessment,’ she says.

Adam Lotun, 49, is one of the people who got in touch with his experience. He says he has had two assessments by Atos, one where he was considered able to work, and one where he wasn’t.

However, he feels neither was in-depth enough to determine the true impact of his multiple health issues which include mental health problems, learning disabilities, needing a wheelchair for mobility, and a machine to help him breathe at night. ‘If I was a horse they would put me down,’ he says.

By May 2012 the small collective had three play scripts ready: Atos Stories, a drama with music, The Atos Monologues and Atos Street Theatre, all available via their website for people to put on in their communities.

Campaigners can use the plays to raise awareness about Atos and the issues faced by people with disabilities. Interest has been building, including from activists angry at Atos’s sponsorship of the Paralympics.

Kerry-Anne Mendoza is a 30-year-old campaigner from Our Olympics. ‘There’s still a shocking amount of public ignorance about the stuff that’s happened with Atos and what the actual impacts are on the disabled community,’ she says.

Act Up, a community theatre company based in Newham, London is putting on a performance of Atos Stories. The group is made up of both people with disabilities and people without. ‘We are now trying to adapt it and make it accessible for our group,’ says Yvonne Brouwers their chair…

Read the rest at New Internationalist.


All’s Fair In Sport

First appeared on Ctrl.Alt.Shift on January 20 2011

Fairtrade London is upping the pressure on the 2012 Olympics organisers to make the event the fairest games yet…

As 2012 draws frighteningly closer the organisers of the Olympic Games in London are busy organising all the details of what is set to be an exciting event for world sport.

Aside from all the medal winning, security and transport concerns though the organisers need think about how they can make the games as ethical as possible and part of this is using Fairtrade products.Over the coming weeks catering contracts will be awarded for the 2012 Olympics and Fairtrade London want to remind the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and the sponsors (McDonalds, Cadburys and Coca-Cola) of their Fairtrade commitments and highlight the areas where caterers could do more.
There had previously been commitments made to make all tea, coffee, sugar, bananas and chocolate snacks at the games Fairtrade and Fairtrade London want to make sure there is no backtracking on these promises.

The last Olympic games were held in Beijing, China in 2008 and saw over 11, 000 athletes from over 200 national teams compete to be the best in the world at their sport. There were 43 records broken including the unforgettable sight of Jamaica’s Usain Bolt who looked like he was having a chilled out jog in the park as he went down through the finish line.

London is hoping to top Beijing’s event making the Olympics not only more exciting but also fairer and with more concern for the all the people that make it happen.
Take action by signing the open letter telling Olympic organisers and catering companies to “Source Fairtrade: make every Olympic catering purchase a winning one”.

More information at the Fairtrade London website.