Protest in Chester over work fitness tests

Reporter:

Staff reporter (Chester First)

CAMPAIGNERS gathered to protest against controversial fitness for work tests for disabled benefit claimants.

Dozens of disabled people and supporters gathered outside the ATOS assessment centre, at the junction of Foregate Street and City Road, as part of the national protest against the Government commissioned ATOS assessments on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions.

Protester Richard Atkinson, 58, led the campaign in Chester. He joined campaigners in calling for the abolition of the work capability tests, stating they were “unfair”.

He is a former welfare rights officer diagnosed with multiple sclerosis eight years ago. He had to finish work three years ago.

He told the Leader: “We need these work capability assessments ruled out, abolished. They are unreasonable and under and over estimate people’s work capability.

“Some people with disabilities can’t work, and some can and they need assistance. 

“There is no support structure in place. The tests are carried out and then people are abandoned with no support. There are plenty of things that disabled people can do aside from employment but the government are only interested in narrow paid employment.”

Reports suggest the Government might soon terminate its contract with controversial firm ATOS which currently carries out the “fitness for work” tests on disabled benefit claimants.

There have been questions over the application of such tests, with claims people are being wrongly recommended for work or put through stressful medical interviews.

Martin Jenkins, a support worker for people with learning disabilities, said he assisted someone who was in line for a work capability assessment. He argued the correct medical criteria was not in place for such tests.

He said: “The assessments are not medically based. They are not helping people they are merely persecuting people. There is no support mechanism. People find it quite stressful and become anxious at having to complete an assessment.”

See full story in the Chester Leader

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