Lincoln disability activists protest against “physical” benefits assessment

Disability activists in Lincoln held a protest in the city centre as part of a national day of action against cuts and privatisation – calling also for Work Capability Assessments to be scrapped.

Organised by groups Disabled People Against Cuts and Black Triangle, the protest on Monday, February 2, saw campaigners focus on the government’s Work Capability Assessment, which is used to assess whether people are able to claim sickness benefits.

Delivery of the assessment has been taken over by American company Maximus, after Atos Healthcare pulled out of the contract at the end of February 2015.

The Lincoln protest was staged outside Viking House, which was home to Atos’ medical examination centre in the city.

Protestors claimed the assessments are “brutal”, stating that metal illnesses are also not effectively accounted for.

Ian Whaley, Lincoln Disabled People Against Cuts spokesperson, said at the protest: “We’re here to try and get the Work Capability Assessment scrapped immediately because it’s not fit for purpose.

“When sick people are found fit for work under these tests, they are forced to claim Jobseekers Allowance instead, facing an increasingly brutal regime in which Jobcentre staff are under pressure from senior managers with targets to sanction claimants.

“Maximus are just the same as Atos. They don’t listen to doctors, they don’t listen to physiotherapists – they’re just a tick box system.

“It’s the same circus just with different clowns.”

Elaine Smith, TUSC parliamentary candidate for Lincoln, added: “I have first-hand experience of the system when I was personally affected back in 2008-09 when I suffered from depression and was made to take part in a ‘physical’ assessment.

“We’re fighting for a welfare system that supports the vulnerable and assists them in getting back to work but we’re not going to penalise and demoralise people for being sick and ill.”