PROTESTERS targeted a disability assessment centre in Salisbury as part a national campaign against benefit changes.
The demonstration, on Wednesday, was staged outside the assessment centre in Summerlock House next to the Jobcentre in Summerlock Approach and included disabled people, trade union members and Green and Labour party supporters.
Cindy Sprinks from Unite, said it was part of a 144-event national protest against ATOS, the French-owned company that is reassessing people claiming disability-related benefits as part of the Government’s welfare shake-up.
Ms Sprinks, who works as a carer for her autistic son and is a student, said: “People need to stand up against the corrupt system. They are suffering because of it and some are dying. They don’t have enough to feed themselves or for electricity.”
Carol Dunford, a protester from Primrose Road, Salisbury said after being reassessed by ATOS she had a £30 cut in her £100 per week Employment and Support Allowance, having been judged to be fit to take up any job. The 50-year-old former care worker says she was successful in her appeal against the ruling as she suffers from osteoarthritis, scoliosis and depression and is waiting for a hip replacement. She said: “I want to work but there are limitations.”
Steve Grey, a father-of-four from Gainsborough Close, Salisbury, said his wife Louisa, 37, has been in bed for four years with chronic regional pain syndrome. He was annoyed that she has to be reassessed every year despite always being successful against the ATOS ruling that she was not disabled.
Clive Wiley, 61, said in 2011 he had been reassessed, had his benefit cut and was told he was fit for work, despite struggling with the affects of cerebral palsy. He said: “I’ve worked and I paid off my mortgage by the age of 40, but I’m worn out. The factory jobs have all gone.” Mr Wiley successfully appealed against the cut, but is concerned about those unable to stand up for themselves.
Tom Corbin, Labour City councillor, said the Government needed to abandon the reassessment programme. He said: “People unfortunate enough to be ill are being persecuted.”
A statement from ATOS said it respected the right to protest but said it was the wrong target as it worked to guidelines laid down by the Department for Work and Pensions. The statement added: “Lobbying against Atos Healthcare will have no impact on welfare policy. It is not, nor has it ever been, the role of Atos Healthcare to make decisions on who can or cannot receive benefits.”