THE MOOD among contestants and spectators at the Paralympic games last Monday was great; every athlete was being cheered by the whole crowd and every medal ceremony was a moment to remember. That is until an announcement saying that George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was going to present the next set of medals. Cheers instantly gave way to loud boos from the whole crowd. Osborne tried to laugh it off but as the jeering continued he looked decidedly uneasy.
Cameron had also been booed by some, earlier in the day at the Aquatic Centre as he was about to present the awards. On the other hand former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown got a hearty cheer when he presented medals.
The Paralympics have been a focus of many protests by disabled activists and their supporters who are furious that these games are being sponsored by the French company Atos, which is being paid millions of pounds by the Department of Work and Pensions to cut welfare benefits paid to the long-term sick and disabled by £18 billion.
This is being done brutally and arbitrarily by Atos through the Work Capability Assessment process, which interviews people as the benefit they receive is changed from Income Support to Employment Support Allowance. It is a mechanistic, computerised test that declares thousands of seriously disabled people and people with terminal cancer fit for work.
Between 40 and 60 per cent of DWP/Atos decisions to cut benefits are reversed on appeal through the courts. But this takes many months during which the benefit is cut. And then there is another assessment and the victim is again declared fit to work or train.
Over 1,000 people have died within six months of being declared fit for work. In some cases these deaths have been suicides but in all cases the deaths have been made more miserable by being hounded by the Government to find or train for work when they cannot and losing benefits as a result.
The people in that stadium included thousands of disabled people, their families, carers and supporters. They have felt the anguish and anxiety of being victims of the cuts that Osborne and Cameron decreed. No wonder they booed.
It is the Government austerity cuts that are behind all this pain now being inflicted on the most vulnerable people in our society. The Atos staff may administer the pain — like the people in the famous Milgram experiment conducted in America to discover if ordinary people could find it in them to be as brutal as the Nazis in the Holocaust. Volunteers were selected and told the experiment was about a connection between pain and the ability to memorise.
They were told by an authoritative person in a white coat to inflict electric shocks on another volunteer in another room when that person failed to answer questions correctly. They were told to increase the severity of the shocks in spite of cries of agony from the victims and even the beginnings of a heart attack. They did not know that the victim “volunteer” was an actor and no real pain was being administered. It was a test to see if people would obey orders to be brutal — and most did.
The staff of Atos carry on administering pain to the sick and disabled only this is real pain and it is really killing people. The Nazis began their exterminations with the sick and disabled. They claimed their society could not afford to feed “useless mouths” and that gassing was more humane than starvation.
No one should be able to use the excuse that they are only obeying orders to inflict pain on others. But the ones who give the orders must be held most responsible. They are not fit to lead a government in any civilised society. They are guilty of crimes against humanity and should be on trial.