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Campaign groups unite in protest over controversial ‘fit to work’ tests

Demonstrators remember Lawrence Bond, who was ruled fit to work but died from a heart attack

20 July, 2017 — By Tom Foot

Dr Jay Watts joins campaigners in Kentish Town on Tuesday

DISABILITY rights and care cuts campaigners demonstrated outside a Jobcentre as part of a week of direct action.

The protest in Kentish Town on Tuesday aimed to draw attention to the government’s controver­sial work capability assessments (WCAs) – also known as “fit to work” benefit sanctions – that have been linked to depression and even suicide among some of the most vulnerable people in society.

Psychologist Dr Jay Watts, who came to support the protest as a health worker, said: “If we healthcare professionals are not helping change this regime, we are complicit. It’s not enough to just do things like campaign for NHS staff pay, because we know this is killing tens of thousands of people. So we stand up with you, as citizens and humans. I am so sorry that NHS staff don’t do that enough, because we bloody should – people are dying.”

Lawrence Bond

The event – part of a week of action by Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC) – drew members of Kentish Town-based WinVisible, Unite Community Camden, Kilburn Unem­ployed Workers Group, Single Mothers’ Self-Defence, Camden Momen­tum, English Collective of Prostitutes the All African Women’s Group and the Reverend Paul Nicolson.

Placards listed the names of people who had died from benefits cuts, while others warned of racism and sexism and compared government policy to “domestic murder”. WCAs – which have been run by Atos and Maximus since being introduced in 2008 – aim to force tens of thousands of benefits claimants to find work despite many having mental health conditions and disabil­ities.

The New Journal has reported how Camden residents have been taken off benefits despite long-term health conditions. The protest remembered Lawrence Bond, who had been ruled fit to work but died from a heart attack at a bus stop in Highgate Road in January this year. He had been looking for work in the Jobcentre in Kentish Town High Road.

Organiser Claire Glassman, from Kentish Town-based women’s and disability rights campaign group WinVisible, said: “We are being called in and asked to verify if we are really disabled. Atos is a data processing company. They should be processing data, not human beings.”

Protesters will demon­strate outside Atos offices in Triton Square, Regent’s Place, tomorrow (Friday) from 12.30pm.

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