Protests outside Paralympic sponsor’s Northampton office

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Disabled groups have protested against a benefits assessment firm’s involvement in the Paralympics outside its Northampton office.

Thirty people from Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and union bosses posted themselves outside the Gladstone Road office of Atos, which shares a building with the driving test centre, on Tuesday.

Atos medically screens people who claim disability living allowance on behalf of the Government in order to weed out fraudsters and is a sponsor of the 2012 Paralympic Games, which starts this week.

But protestors said they wanted to highlight the inappropriateness of it sponsoring the Games when its assessments were allegedly denying benefits to many genuinely disabled people.

Ellen Clifford of Northampton DPAC said: “They consistently deny they have targets, but there is evidence there is pressure to take about 20 per cent of claimants off benefits.

“That can’t be right. It has to be judged on the assessment itself rather than on fitting in with an ideology.”

DPAC, a national organisation, says disabled people have died from their conditions after being ruled fit to work by Atos and some have committed suicide.

Mrs Clifford said: “Surveys show the public believe about 70 per cent of people on benefits are cheating the system when it’s really only about 0.5 per cent.

“The Government are just playing on people’s prejudices, which are being fed by false information.

“The old system was not perfect but it was far better. You just have to accept that some people will cheat the system and not punish the needy by trying to root them out.“