Spite and Contempt: How Atos Weston-Super-Mare Views Disabled Protestors


Protestor with a sign found outside Atos’ Weston-Super-Mare offices yesterday.

I couldn’t let this go without a comment. Mike on his post about yesterday’s nationwide protests against Atos, ‘Delights-and Disgraces – of the Atos Day of Protest’ over at Vox Political reports how the scrawled message shown above greeted demonstrators outside Atos’ Weston-Super-Mare offices. He says of it and the nasty mentality behind it

Clearly this office contains some very hard-line supporters of government policy, whose attitude demonstrates the blinkered, small-minded, fantasy-world attitude that allows policies like the Atos assessment regime to exist in a supposedly advanced country like ours.

Ian Duncan Rimmer

Ian Duncan Smith: Has all the leadership ability and petty tyranny of Red Dwarf’s Arnold Judas Rimmer.

It also points to the kind of officious and pettily vindictive mentality now all too prevalent in the DWP under Ian Duncan Smith. I have already blogged before on the similarity, in my opinion, between Ian Duncan Smith in his delusions of political and military grandeur and his bully and contempt for those below him with Arnold Rimmer in the SF comedy Red Dwarf. It’s something of a truism that regimes take on the psychology of their leaders. The Soviet Union was a brutal tyranny, because its founders, Lenin and most particularly Stalin, were autocrats with a strong desire to seize and hold on to power and a fear of those below them. This psychology became a functional part of the system they created, with the officials at every level of the hierarchy bullying those below them, while at the same time plotting to take over their superiors’ positions when they in turn would be denounced and arrested.

Although politics in the USSR became much less lethal after Stalin’s death and the attacks on his ‘cult of personality’ in Khruschev’s Secret Speech of 1953, an attitude of petty officiousness and contempt for the Soviet public still remained among the system’s minor functionaries. Several Western writers on the Soviet Union noted how, wherever you went, there would always be a woman behind a desk, scowling at you and responding, ‘Nyelza!’ (‘It’s forbidden’) when you asked a question. One of the travel writers I read told how he was stuck in a stiflingly hot railway carriage during a journey through Russia in the 1980s. Despite the heat and the increasingly stuffy atmosphere, the carriage’s windows remained tightly closed. When he attempted to open them, the female supervisor rose up to snap them shut again with a snort of ‘Nyelza!’. The writer says at one point that the whole country appeared to be run by these ferocious women behind their desks.

The writer did, however, record a minor victory of the Soviet public over these petty officials. He was stuck in a long queue waiting to use the ‘Up’ escalator at the Moscow metro, if I recall correctly. There was no-one coming down the ‘Down’ escalator, which had a sign saying it was strictly forbidden to try to go up it. Standing in front of the escalators, making sure no-one did any such thing, was one of these ladies behind a desk. A young man then came running through the crowd, and before the female official could stop him, vaulted over the barrier and ran up the ‘Down’ escalator. The writer said he and the rest of the crowd silently rejoiced at this act of defiance. I don’t suggest anyone try this stunt, however, as I have a feeling someone was either killed or seriously injured a little while ago when doing something similar.

Ian Duncan Smith has similarly left his psychological mark on the Department for Work and Pensions. As I’ve blogged about before, this seems to be full of backbiting and treachery by the civil servants employed there, as they frantically compete for each other’s jobs. At the same time, all too many of them have complete contempt for the people below them. The Void especially has blogged about the outrage caused by some of these, who have boasted about the number of people they’ve sanctioned. He and many other Left-wing bloggers have also described the various secret instructions from the DWP to Jobcentre staff setting quotas for the number of claimants to be thrown off benefits. Some Jobcentres have even awarded prizes for those, who have sanctioned the most claimants, and there have been bonuses paid to those, who have done so.

Clearly, despite Atos claims that they are not responsible for government policy, they fully share the contempt for the disabled and the unemployed shown by IDS and his staff in the DWP and Jobcentres. This attitude is blatantly clear in the above sign. In my experience, and those of many of the disabled people and their carers, who have commented on this blog, Atos and their officials are mendacious in the extreme. They have and will lie in the assessments and will falsify claimants’ answers in the assessment forms in order to have them thrown off their benefit. Their conduct and the assessment itself is based on the presumption that most people claiming benefit are actually capable of some work, even when it is clear that they cannot. In their view, they are, like the great mass of the unemployed, just scroungers, and so should be treated as such. Hence this nasty little sign.

I don’t know if this would actually help anyone, but if anyone in Weston-Super-Mare is in dispute with Atos over the results of their assessment, it might be worth pointing to this sign as an example of the prejudice and contempt Atos has towards their claimants.

I am also of the opinion that whatever Atos and the DWP try to say to the contrary, this sign should be given all the publicity it truly deserves to show just how Atos and its staff are motivated by contempt and spite towards the most vulnerable members of society. At a time when even the nastiest companies are concerned to give themselves the best, media-friendly image possible, this might cause them some degree of embarrassment. It probably won’t embarrass their boss, Thierry Breton, or Ian Duncan Smith and the disabilities’ minister, Esther McVey, as their too far gone for any kind of shame or even basic humanity by now. But it might – just might – add another little piece to pull their marketing managers up short, and make others question the wisdom of doing business with a company with such a bad reputation.

Okay, it probably won’t. For all the bad publicity, Serco, Atos and G4S are still in business. But as ASDA keeps reminding us, ‘Every little bit helps’. Or is that Sainsbury’s?

If you’re planning another protest against Atos in Weston-Super-Mare, their address is Regent House, Oxford Place, Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset, BS23 1JH. They also have a website here http://www.atoshealthcare.com/claimants/locations_home/Locations_Details_Weston%20.

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10 Responses to “Spite and Contempt: How Atos Weston-Super-Mare Views Disabled Protestors”

  1. Mike Sivier Says:

    Reblogged this on Vox Political.

  2. Daijohn Says:

    Before we go for throats of the ATOS employees in Weston-Super-Mare can we be sure that they were responsible for the placard in question? It seems to be to be a pretty dumb thing to have done.

  3. gingerblokeblog Says:

    Reblogged this on gingerblokeblog.

  4. Wheels Of Political Steel Says:

    Reblogged this on wheelsofpoliticalsteel and commented:

  5. beastrabban Says:

    It’s a fair comment, Daijohn. I am, however, fairly certain it was someone from Atos, rather than a random member of the public. The protestors said that they found it there. Now presumably that means that someone had made it and left it there over night. Now I have to say that I don’t know the area, but I’m assuming that if that’s the case, it’d be like most commercial premises and locked up or otherwise left alone by the rest of the British public outside of office hours. This points to someone from Atos, if only a caretaker.

    Secondly, it doesn’t look like something left by an outsider to stir things up against the company. I would imagine that if a vandal or malicious practical joker had left the message, it would probably be rather more childish and coarser in its language. I’d expect something more on the lines of ‘Ha ha, layabouts, get back to work, say ***holes of Atos’. Something offensive like that, which also insults the company as well. Something more along the lines of the spoof tweets about Jobcentre Plus that got the managers at their head office so annoyed, that they demanded that Twitters censor them. However, the message isn’t phrased like that.

    As for being stupid, I agree. It is. But unfortunately, people do stupid things. It’s monumentally stupid for a member of staff at the Jobcentre to boast of getting someone sanctioned on Twitter or Facebook, but nevertheless, someone did. And unfortunately, you do find the attitude in the DWP/ Jobcentre Plus that people on benefits are basically scroungers.

    Also, Atos must still bear some responsibility for the message as it was found on their premises. I don’t know how early the protests began, but I assume they started either at the same time Atos opened for business or sometime during the day. There was, presumably, time during which someone at the office could have cleared it away to make sure it wasn’t seen by the demonstrators or any other members of the public. If Atos were serious about trying to present the best image of themselves to the public, they would presumably have been careful to check the premises to make sure someone hadn’t left anything there to make matters worse. If the message was left by an outsider, then it means that they didn’t do this, and so really weren’t concerned about making matters worse. In which case, their failure to clear the sign away points either to contempt for the demonstrators, or else they were afraid of showing themselves to them, if they did.

    If someone from Atos Weston-Super-Mare does want to come here, and show that they weren’t responsible for the message, then I’ll gladly post their explanation and a retraction. I look forward to seeing if they do.

  6. beastrabban Says:

    MIke, over at Vox Political, on his piece on the nationwide protests against Atos has the following comments:

    ‘Re: The sign in Weston-Super-Mare – according to a commenter on Facebook, “as these women were putting the sign into a bin, ATOS staff were LAUGHING at them threw the windows!”

    In which case I think I’m going to have to wait a very long time for any explanation from Atos Weston-Super-Mare.

  7. jaypot2012 Says:

    Reblogged this on Jay's Journal and commented:
    Far too few turned up – that’s the saddest thing of all.

  8. Helen Maddock Says:

    I attended my local protest and met some interesting people….this is only the beginning and already we have the DWP and Atos backing off. The staff at Southend allegedly left their Atos offices and joined the protesters outside as they too are sick of being bullied by Atos+DWP mandates. The few I met at Exeter were coherent and resolute and although we were but a few we gained much comfort and sustenance from meeting each other……..I too would have loved to have seen far more people turn out but we are sick and dependent so far less likely to be able to make it….perhaps this is why we were targeted in the first place. The chattering classes are finally catching on and they are off and running so who knows…..
    Are you aware of DPAC these appear to me to be the most organised and I will continue to promote their work. Best wishes from all at the Raspberry Ritz.

  9. rvraiment Says:

    In my view there is something insidiously nasty about this line of work. Perhaps it’s to do with the majority of employees being, seemingly, second income earners rather than breadwinners. I worked in a Labour Exchange many years ago and can’t remember much about it, but I know that I’ve never visited a DSS office or Jobcentre where I didn’t feel the staff weren’t happy to criticize and humiliate. I also spent a very short period working for a major energy supplier, in an office which produced the letters telling people their supplies were about to be cut off because of non-payment. The kingpin and chief letter-drafter was a youth who could neither write nor spell, whilst his female acolytes made constant disparaging references to the ‘sob stories’ their customers would come up with.

  10. The Swans New Party Says:

    The general public support welfare reform and know only the propaganda pushed through the media. We keep on hearing stories of those who commit fraud to gain benefits and go to prison as a result. The entire belief system by people not disabled and/or chronic sick and actually experiencing the system at first hand, is that welfare reform is paying off the deficit. In fact, as we heard again, companies like Atos cost £500 million a year.

    As Labour started welfare reform and brought in Atos back in 2005, and the food banks began to rise back then, and Labour have confirmed through Ed Balls that they will continue Tory spending plans and be harder on welfare reform than even the Tories, then there is no party out there that offers hope.

    2015 is Vote New or Starve year

    There is a better way:

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