'Contract kill Atos' graffiti spray-painted on Hitchin disability assessment centre
PUBLISHED: 14:43 16 October 2017 | UPDATED: 18:28 16 October 2017
A graffiti artist angry about the handling of disability benefit claims has spray-painted the words "contract kill Atos" on the front of Hitchin's assessment centre.
The words have been painted in red on the front windows of the PIP Consultation Centre in Bancroft, where people claiming Personal Independence Payments receive assessments.
The centre is run on behalf of the Department of Work and Pensions by private firm Independent Assessment Services – formerly called Atos Healthcare, and part of the French IT services company Atos.
Councillor Judi Billing, who represents the Bearton ward in which the centre is located, told the Comet that she understood the graffiti artist’s frustrations – but that there were more constructive ways to respond.
She said: “There are tremendous problems with the systems the government has put in place, and I’m deeply critical of them – but I don’t think this is the way to deal with them.
“If there are people around who have particularly bad experiences, it’d be really helpful if they could contact their local councillors and MP as a more productive way of trying to sort things out.
“I really understand the frustrations of people affected by some of the demeaning ways in which the government expects people to prove their cases.”
PIP replaced the Disability Living Allowance in 2013. As of the end of 2016, the DWP had paid Atos and a second private firm, Capita, more than £500 million to run PIP assessments.
An Independent Assessment Services spokesman said: “We are aware of this incident and it has been reported to the police.”
Spray-painting private property is legally considered criminal damage, and police have confirmed to Comet that they are investigating the incident as such.
Anyone with information can call police on 101, quoting crime reference G1/17/3208.
A DWP spokesman declined to comment.