Protest closes Wimbledon office and attracts riot police
Campaigners fighting over changes to benefits shut down an office and attracted police attention during a peaceful protest yesterday morning.
The demonstration was outside Wimbledon's Atos Healthcare centre in the Broadway, where the Government's "fit for work" assessments are carried out for people receiving disability allowance.
Protestors gathered at assessment centres across the country demanding an end to the test they claim sends many disabled people to work for which they are not fit.
Adam Lotun, who organised the Wimbledon protest, said: "I have had two assessments with Atos. One said I was not fit for work and the other said I was not able to receive benefits when I am in a wheelchair and have been claiming benefits for six years.
"We have had people going to the assessment and having a heart attack due to stress and nothing was done for them. This can't go on."
A group of just four campaigners who turned up for the 8am start said they were surprised to find themselves outnumbered by riot police.
Mr Lotun said: "Two riot vans were there. Why do you need riot vans in Wimbledon outside the office where disabled people are?
"Two officers said they were there in case somebody wants to hijack the protest."
Campaigners said they were also surprised Atos chose to close their offices for the day.
A spokesperson for Atos Healthcare said: "We absolutely respect people’s right to peaceful protest and we are well aware that being assessed for benefit entitlement can be a difficult experience.
"However, 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.
"We carry out assessments following strict guidelines and criteria written by Government. For the parts of the process we are responsible for, we work hard to treat people with care and respect and constantly improve our service."
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