Image: Protesters outside the Andersonstown Social Security office in west Belfast
By VIEW editor Brian Pelan
A welfare rights campaign group held a demonstration outside a social security office in west Belfast yesterday to protest against sanctions and the rise of food banks.
The Right to Work; Right to Welfare group (R2W), supported by human rights organisation Participation and the Practice of Rights (PPR), have called for basic due process before social security sanctions (the suspension or reduction of income) are imposed.
The protest took place at Andersonstown Social Security office, beside the Kennedy Way shopping centre.
R2W member Bertie Atkinson said he had applied for sickness benefit when he had a heart attack. He takes over 50 tablets a day for his heart condition, diabetes and a range of other health issues.
He spent last year on a mandatory government work programme under threat of a financial sanction. He was declared ‘fit for work’ by after an assessment carried out by the private company ATOS.
Mr Atkinson said: “We need the Permanent Secretary Leo O’Reilly to put human rights into social security decision making right now.
“I was declared fit for work after a 15-minute interview. I was asked if I could lift my hands above my head and comb my hair. I was then told I had got zero points.”
Sean Brady from PPR said: “This is about decision making, not decision makers. Last year over 20,000 decisions were made to stop the sole income of sick, disabled and unemployed people. More than 30,000 people, including 13,000 children, had to use food banks to feed themselves.”
For more information go to http://www.pprproject.org/