Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Atos Mass Read Round Up - Part 3

6.30pm After a slight panic about the livestream link for Joy and Cova's broadcast at 7pm, which Lisa, @living_as_if fielded, we had the link all ready for 7pm. In the meantime, while I'd been cooking tea Melanie, @intastellabella had concluded tweeting David's story. We were all set for the livestream at 7pm, but then we had another technical hitch. Somehow, I managed to miss the beginning, and got distracted by something at home, so missed what Joy and Cova said at the end. But after a few tweets and emails, we sorted it out and found the livestream they'd recorded could be retweeted. You can find their powerful, angry broadcast  here

7.15pm Whilst that was going on, we were able to retweet the story Melanie tweeted and catch up with Lisa @living_as_if 's own personal story. As a member of the collective collecting stories, this was the first time she'd shared her own. It has a trigger warning, but for once, it's an example of an Atos staff member showing a bit of compassion. It does happen, and we should celebrate those people who are able to be humane in the midst of all the brutality.

7.30pm We were able to put up our first podcast as Gram Davis, @Poplarpersona offers wise reflections about the whole WCA/ESA/Atos/DWP experience in between reading stories that speak particularly to him.  We hit another technical glitch as the first reading came across rather echoey. But by 8pm it was all sorted, and it's well worth a listen.

At 8.45pm we began to draw the day to a close. We decided to end, as the Atos Monologues does, by tweeting Karen Sherlock's story on our timeline. I've read this story before, and it always makes me cry. Karen contacted us last year to tell us what she'd experienced. We were so delighted when she'd won her appeal, that her death 9 days later was all the more shocking. As I tweeted, one line jumped out from all the others
" Want to know how they can consider someone who is in hospital on dialysis 3 times a week& recovering inbetween is able to work".

As someone tweeted back to us "Who on earth would do that?" Who indeed?

We finished at 9.30pm 12 hours after we started, remembering Karen, and all those who have suffered, and died under the WCA.

And then, just as we were heading for bed, Jane and Rick from the WOW petition, sent us this last powerful podcast - please be warned, the first story is extremely shocking. But it needs to be told.

All in all, Atos Mass Read has been an amazing experience. We got stories out in a multitude of ways, which we hope reached people who might not have heard of the issues before. We also noticed we'd picked up a couple of trolls last night, a sure sign that all the retweets yesterday had an impact. We'd like to thank all our contributors for their efforts, possibly a first in multi-media artistic protest!


The stories we've been telling are painful, difficult, shocking, horrifying, but we didn't put them out there for people to despair. All our contributors wanted us to share their stories so that others won't have to suffer like this.

So what can you do now?

WRITE to your MP, to Iain Duncan Smith, David Cameron, George Osborne, Esther McVey to tell them what you think about the WCA, and Atos. Tell them it's time to End ESA Now.

JOIN the ESA End Game Campaign

SIGN the WOW Petition and get involved in the battle to save welfare

FOLLOW Bedding Out this week and Fit to Work: Poets Against Atos

BE PART of the Resistance to the War on Welfare, counter every piece of propaganda you read. Challenge every lazy assertion you hear. Pass on these stories wherever you can. Read, blog, podcast, livestream, tweet, do a live event - download them here

Together we can END ESA NOW!

Atos Mass Read Round Up -Part 2

2.30pm I got back from town to catch up with @nellmk2  had tweeted Nelson, Tim and John's stories. Meanwhile @living_as_if had done an excellent job of curating in my absence, and it was pleasing to see so many retweets throughout the morning. 

I was very excited to discover the wonderful Act Up! Newham had sent us this video, of their rehearsal the previous night. Act Up! have been working on our play Atos Stories since last summer and readers of this blog will be aware their first performance was cancelled at Christmas. It's great to see this hasn't deterred them, and judging by this video we are in for a treat when they finally get to go on stage on the 19th June.

By 3.30pm we'd retweeted all the stories @nellmk2 tweeted earlier and it was time to release the poems that the very wonderful Fit to Work:Poets Against Atos had sent us. First up was Dan Holloway, who had joined us earlier in Oxford, perfoming his poem The Mentalist. It was then we hit our first technical glitch of the day, as when I tweeted the audiofiles I'd been sent I realised the links didn't work. Thankfully Mark Burnhope @mkburnhope was on the case, and by the evening we were able to post Nul Pwn by Kit Fryatt  and Tock by Sarah James.

At around 4.30pm  I was taking a breather when I realised that Melanie @intastellabella had begun to tweet Kate's story - as she said, "I can't wait till six some things need action now"
Again, reading this line by line was very moving, here's a snapshot:

  1. Unless you go through one yourself its hard to understand what they are like.
  2. The stress and upset these medicals cause are unbelievable
  3. It affected me so bad with how they do things and getting told in that I had not scored any points was outrageous.
  4. I was very depressed anyway the day I got my letter... But that tipped me over the edge and I took an over dos

Kate ends by asking "how much fighting can you do?" It's a question we can all often ask...

By now it was time for tea, so we took another break. The rest of the day will be told in Part 3.

Atos Mass Read - Round Up - Part 1

Ever since we collected people's stories last year and wrote the plays Atos Stories and The Atos Monologues, we've been keen to do a nationwide event. Health, work, family commitments means this has proved more difficult than we expected. It wasn't until the recent launch of the ESA End Game campaign that we thought it was worth giving it a go and using the occasion to promote both that and the WOW Petition Campaign. So a month ago, we put out this blogpost and started to drum up trade.

What seemed like a good idea on paper has actually been a bit more difficult in practice. People have been keen to get involved, but many began to find, understandably, that their health wasn't up to organising an outside event. (Indeed that right there demonstrates why the whole work capability assessment process is so unfit for purpose - most claimants would love to work but their health impedes them). A lot has been happening in other campaigns, which is brilliant, but it has limited people's energy to do something for this one. Finally, we are a tiny group, and only have limited time and energy ourselves to keep this up. Still it was with some frustration that with two weeks to go we still had very few readings planned. We were on the point of cancelling, when someone mentioned they might livestream. It was then that it dawned on us, there could be more than one way to get involved. So we invited people to join us in whatever way they could, live event, tweeting, podcasting, videoing and livestreaming. And suddenly the whole thing came alive with energy and promises of help in all areas. What had begun to feel like a weight on our shoulders was transformed into the exciting multimedia #atosmassread. Suddenly we couldn't wait.

The day before yesterday was a great warm up. We'd spotted a letter from Atos in last week's Guardian that incensed us so much we had to respond. The morning news was dominated by Spartaci with Sue Marsh, Kaliya Franklin, Stephen Sumpter, Jane Young and many more on radio and TV challenging DWP and Government lies on DLA and PIP again and again. Of course, the announcement of the death of a certain former Prime Minister slightly changed all that later in the day. So we spent the afternoon building for yesterday using the hashtag #thatcherslegacy  to show how ESA, WCA and Atos are all part of the world she left behind.

And so to the day itself.

We started quietly at 9.30, as Helen @nellmk2 began to tweet Aletheia's story line by line. We have read all the stories many times, but I, for one, found tweeting a powerful way to hear the words again, as you can see from this snapshot...

  1. "She had me bend over, I was clearly stiff and in discomfort"

  2. "and did not wait for answers before going on to the next one"

  3. "She raced through questions at the speed of light"

  4. "by telling me I had conditions which I do not have"

  5. " The pseudo HCP ruined my concentration

While Helen carried on tweeting, it was time for me to leave for Oxford for the outside event in Bonn Square. We'd managed to cobble this together over email. A small group of us gathered in the New Road Baptist Church to have a quick read through, and decide which parts to read. We emerged at 11.30 to discover that the diggers that had been quiet for half an hour had started again. Not only that but the buses were stopping right in front of us leaving their engines running loudly. We shouted above the noise, but it felt (as campaigning often does!) that we were shouting in vain. 

After about four monologues we had a quick discussion and moved up the road to the Cornmarket. We found a much quieter spot outside the bank and continued. As Owen handed out leaflets and talked to interested passers by, Miriam, myself, Dan and Jane took each voice in turn. Most people walked on, but by the end, one or two hung around to listen.  We ended with Karen Sherlock's emails to Kaliya Franklin (thanks to Kaliya and Nigel Sherlock for permission). Karen's story is a shockingly sad one, but a very real example that behind all those twisted DWP statistics lie real human beings and real damage. 

At 12pm  while we were in full flow in Oxford @Dr_Vole and @Bluehook  (Rachel Stelmach) began their event in Lampeter. Rachel writes:

"A tight circle of women, in a small hall, in a tiny town in West Wales, came together to, if nothing else, at least bear witness to those people who have been damaged by this horribly flawed system of assessment. We bore witness also to the farce of politicians pretending that forcing seriously ill and disabled people to undergo continual rounds of assessment, appeals and form filling, never allowing the time to recover from the last indignity, was somehow because they really care about them. We bore witness to the ridiculous platitudes ATOS throw out without ever really thinking about the individual human lives they are impacting on. Because that's what the end result is, individual human beings, most of whom have paid their way for many years but on becoming ill or disabled have then found themselves unable to work. Instead of being the safety net for them, ESA has become a bed of jagged rocks, waiting to shatter anyone that falls on it. And whilst we can rail against a French Software company that has set itself up as a medical assessment service, not really caring how much flak they get from disabled people in the UK because they have a big fat contract and are happy to take the money, let's not forget that really they are just doing the work of the UK government."

Indeed let's not forget how culpable the government is in the whole scandal of Work Capability Assessment. We need to hold them to account as much as Atos.

We took a break at lunch, so it seems a good place to stop, part 2 follows!

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Tell Me Lies About Welfare Reform

Inspired by this article by the wonderful Ricky Tomlinson, the fabulous Poets Against  Atos  and owing everything to this poem by Adrian Mitchell, couldn't resist doing this tonight...

Tell Me Lies About Welfare Reform
(after Adrian Mitchell)

I was run over by the truth one day.
Ever since the accident I've walked this way
So stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Welfare Reform.

Heard the radio screaming all the scroungers are to blame
Those lousy benefits claimants with their cheating screw-you games
So fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Welfare Reform

Every time I read the paper they tell me jobs are there to claim
But when I go down to the centre, there’s none there all the same
So coat my eyes with butter
Fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Welfare Reforme

You say it's for the future, that it will be worth the pain.
I smell something is fishy but I hope that’s just my brain.
So stuff my nose with garlic
Coat my eyes with butter
Fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Welfare Reform.

Where were you at the time of the crime?
Down in Annie’s Bar drinking slime
So chain my tongue with whisky
Stuff my nose with garlic
Coat my eyes with butter
Fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Welfare Reform.

You put your bedroom tax in, you put your conscience out,
You take the human being and you twist it all about
So scrub my skin with women
Chain my tongue with whisky
Stuff my nose with garlic
Coat my eyes with butter
Fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Welfare Reform