ONTD Political

How can it be that a disabled man needs to go on hunger strike just to get heard by Atos?

4:00 pm - 11/05/2012
151065898When I hear the words 'hunger strike', I think of Gandhi and his friends in the struggle for Indian independence over 60 years ago.

When I hear the words 'hunger strike' I certainly don't think of first-world, Western countries like Wales, towards the end of 2012.

Yet today, as I type this article while sipping a hot cup of tea, there is a man in his thirties on hunger strike in Wales.

Christos Palmer has physical disabilities and mental health issues. He has been on hunger strike for three days. He plans to continue this until Friday 12 November.

So, why would a man with such serious personal health difficulties feels he needs to be taking such drastic action in a Western country in the 21 century?

The answer wouldn't surprise many sick or disabled people and carers. Christos Palmer is protesting against the actions of Atos Healthcare.

He is protesting because, like so many other sick and disabled people in recent times, he has received the result of his Work Capability Assessment from the Department for Work and Pensions. The assessment found Christos fit for work, and his disability benefits have been cut.

But far from taking the decision lying down, far from simply attempting to appeal, Christos Palmer is currently sitting outside Atos' Cardiff office, on hunger strike, leading a vigil against the company.

The vigil is intended to be peaceful. Christos says the protesters intend to shame the Atos workers into seeing the misery and pain they are causing, with the hope that they will leave the company, or even better, expose some of their dark secrets.

He said: "We also want to show the people attending this charade of a medical company that they are not alone in the struggle against this large multinational company."

More importantly, Christos says the protesters "want to show David Cameron, we're not prepared to be killed en masse, and we're willing to fight back."

Christos continues with a very sobering thought:

"During the five days of this protest, 50 disabled people will die."

I'm lucky enough never to have experienced a Work Capability Assessment, as I only claim Disability Living Allowance [OP note: which will change when it's replaced by PIP], which is not an unemployment benefit. However, Christos' situation has reminded me of a quote from Benjamin Franklin: "Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are."

I'm not personally affected by the actions of Atos Healthcare. However, I see myself first and foremost as a disabled person. This makes me part of a very special community. I'm outraged that one of my own is having to starve himself, to risk his own life, because of the actions of a large multinational company where few, if any, have the slightest bit of personal experience of disability. The worst thing about Christos’ situation is that if he makes it through the hunger strike alive and still loses his benefits, it is likely that he will continue to starve as a result of being left without enough money to survive.

Tomorrow, America votes for its next President. Until yesterday, when I heard of Christos’ situation, I was waiting for the result of the election with a great deal of excitement and interest.

However, now that I know that one of my own will be starving for a week, it feels somehow wrong to care about who will have the most powerful job in the world on Wednesday morning.

Christos’ actions make my own problems seem so small. I now feel like the only thing I should care about is whether he will make it through the hunger strike alive.


Currently waiting for the results of an Atos assessment myself and sorely tempted to follow suit once the inevitable happens.

Update (from Atos Miracles Facebook group): "Christos Palmer I'll be stopping the hunger strike soon, my friends are concerned, I've made my point, atos has more bad publicity, i'll still continue the vigil outside atos. I'll celebrate with a victory meal of a cup of tomato soup. Down with Atos. Christos x"
the_physicist 5th-Nov-2012 07:17 pm (UTC)
i'll raise you one on this article with a blog post (yeah, source is just a blog post, i know, but still... worth reading): 3 activists hassled by police, 2 of them disabled (LJ blog post by miriammoules
paulnolan 5th-Nov-2012 07:19 pm (UTC)
Saw about that first one the other day on one of the blogs I follow - disgusting.
the_physicist 5th-Nov-2012 07:23 pm (UTC)
glad this stuff is getting round the blog sphere. thought i'd link here to boost the signal since the press don't give a shit seemingly.
(no subject) - Anonymous
alicephilippa 5th-Nov-2012 09:43 pm (UTC)
I'm on income based ESA, so I should just show an in date award letter to pharmacists etc. Rather than relying on the DWP to send me letters in a timely fashion I always apply for and get an HC2 certificate.
squeeful 5th-Nov-2012 07:55 pm (UTC)
When I hear the words 'hunger strike', I think of Gandhi and his friends in the struggle for Indian independence over 60 years ago.

When I hear the words 'hunger strike' I certainly don't think of first-world, Western countries like Wales, towards the end of 2012.

Did the author sleep through the 1970s and 80s?

I hope Mr. Palmer gets through with no lasting effects and everyone gets the care they need.
paulnolan 5th-Nov-2012 07:58 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that bit was odd. I mean, Bobby Sands anyone?
ragnor144 5th-Nov-2012 09:28 pm (UTC)
"How is it that a disabled man needs on go on a hunger strike...?" Even being from the States I know the answer was "Atos."

I really feel for Palmer. I am in the position where I think I have to apply for disability, but I am afraid. They always automatically turn down everyone when you apply. I am scared that if my appeal is denied, that I would kill myself. I ironically have to be healthier to get through the process. I definitely don't have the strength to go on a hunger strike. I've read that there have been a spike in suicides related to Atos evaluations. I expect this kind of cold hardheartedness in the United States, but am dismayed to see Tories adopting the worst of our excesses.
alicephilippa 5th-Nov-2012 09:56 pm (UTC)
The ATOS WCA was not fit for purpose from the moment the Labour Gov't brought it in. The whole thing should have been properly reformed before withdrawing Incapacity Benefit and moving people onto ESA.

When I had my WCA I felt the whole thing was a farce. Unsurprisingly I was classed as fit for work. I appealed and when I got the notes from my WCA it seemed like they had assessed someone else. On finally getting to tribunal, a year after the WCA, I won.

Sadly there are many who cannot deal with the stress of failing the WCA and having to appeal.
casketscratcher 6th-Nov-2012 09:53 pm (UTC)
As someone who has been waiting for a "decision" from the DWP and ATOS and have been warned that I could be waiting for more than 8 weeks, I can completely understand the frustration and desperation that could lead to action like this. I'm struggling enough as it is and I'm in a fortunate enough position to have a little financial support from my family right now. I can't imagine how stressful and scary it must be for it to be your only source of income and to have that taken away from you... ugh.

Fuck ATOS. Fuck this government. Fuck the way disabled people are treated in this country.
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