HUNDREDS of Commonwealth Games tourists were surprised in Glasgow’s George Square yesterday as disability activists cried shame on sponsor Atos.
A clutch of demonstrators backing campaign group Glasgow Against Atos held banners and placards aloft — reading “ATOS KILLS” — in front of sports fans who were viewing the Glasgow 2014 sculpture and queueing for Games merchandise.
IT giant Atos has sought to boost its public profile by sponsoring database software for international sporting events, but campaigners have fought to expose its role in deadly cuts to disability benefits under a lucrative contract running “work capability assessments” for the Department of Work and Pensions.
Demonstrator Ronnie Swinton told the Morning Star he had come all the way from Dundee to voice his anger at Atos.
Mr Swinton said he had spent seven weeks “without any money,” depending on friends as he fought to appeal a decision that he was fit for work despite chronic depression.
Mr Swinton said he had eventually won his appeal but the stress had taken a further toll on his health.
“I was afraid of losing my flat.
“It would’ve given me a mental illness if I didn’t have one in the first place,” he said.
And a government proposal to simply switch contractors won’t solve the problems either, he added: “The whole system’s got to be stopped before any more people die.”
Several suicides have been linked to benefits being denied following Atos’ assessments, including “Miss DE” in 2011, whose identity remains protected, and blind agoraphobe Tim Salter, who took his own life in September last year.
The department says it does not record mortality rates for those deemed “fit for work.”
But figures released in 2012 suggested that 2,200 people had died before Atos had even completed their assessment — and 1,300 had died within six weeks of being shunted into “work related activity.”
In 2012 Paralympic athletes hid their branded lanyards at London’s Olympic opening ceremony, while Sport Disability Scotland told MSPs in April of athletes who could no longer afford to continue their sporting careers after losing out to an assessment.
Games organisers have repeatedly said they remain “very proud” of Atos’ involvement, while Atos maintains that its assessments merely offer information to DWP officials who decide on access to benefits.