Crowd voices Atos anger
By Donna Deeney
Saturday, 1 September 2012
A cancer patient who had her disability allowance cut and was told she
was fit to work was buried just hours before a protest rally against
Cecilia Burns had her Employment Support Allowance reduced by £30-
a-week in March this year, even though she was still undergoing
treatment for breast cancer which included surgery, chemotherapy and
Mrs Burns died on Monday and her funeral took place in Strabane
She was remembered at a demonstration against the Government-
appointed body, Atos, set up to assess people like her who are
receiving benefits because their disability prevents them from working.
At the time that she was told she was capable of working, Mrs Burns,
who had worked all her life before her cancer diagnosis, described the
new test used to assess people's ability to work as “a joke”.
The Londonderry rally was held beneath the Paralympic outdoor screen
in the city centre in protest against the sponsorship of the Paralympics
by Atos, which was described by social activist Eamonn McCann as
He said: “It is grotesque that Atos is sponsoring the Paralympics at the
same time as it is being used by the Government to cut disability
“Cecilia Burns from Strabane died this week after being told that she
was fit for work, and the
same thing happened to a woman in Creggan whose family could see
that she was not going to be alive at Christmas-time and they were
“Everyone knows it is the most vulnerable that are being hit hard by
“Atos didn't make up these cuts but they are doing the dirty work of
the Government, and asking them politely is not going to make them
Echoing the call for public protests, Kathleen Bradley, a Benefits
Adviser with Dove House resource centre in Derry, added: “These
medical assessments are designed so that no one can pass them and
what Atos is asking people to do is outrageous.
“We need to stand together and say „No, enough is enough, we can't
take any more cuts‟.” Following the speeches, the rally of around 50
people walked to the Derry offices of Atos chanting anti-cuts slogans.
A spokeswoman for Atos said: “We fully respect people‟s right to
peaceful protest and we understand that this is a highly emotive issue.
“We do not make decisions on people‟s benefit entitlement or on
welfare policy, but we will continue to make sure that the service we
provide is as highly professional and compassionate as it can be.
“At Atos we have proudly supported the Paralympic movement for a
decade. We hope people will view the Games, as we do, as an
opportunity to celebrate sporting achievements,” she added.