How can it be that a disabled man needs to go on hunger strike just to get heard by Atos?

A man with physical disabilities and mental health issues is on hunger strike in Wales, after having his disability benefits cut.

Share
Related Topics

When I hear the words 'hunger strike', I think of Gandhi and his friends in the struggle for Indian independence over 60 years ago.

When I hear the words 'hunger strike' I certainly don't think of first-world, Western countries like Wales, towards the end of 2012.

Yet today, as I type this article while sipping a hot cup of tea, there is a man in his thirties on hunger strike in Wales.

Christos Palmer has physical disabilities and mental health issues. He has been on hunger strike for three days. He plans to continue this until Friday 12 November.

So, why would a man with such serious personal health difficulties feels he needs to be taking such drastic action in a Western country in the 21 century?

The answer wouldn't surprise many sick or disabled people and carers. Christos Palmer is protesting against the actions of Atos Healthcare.

He is protesting because, like so many other sick and disabled people in recent times, he has received the result of his Work Capability Assessment from the Department for Work and Pensions. The assessment found Christos fit for work, and his disability benefits have been cut.

But far from taking the decision lying down, far from simply attempting to appeal, Christos Palmer is currently sitting outside Atos' Cardiff office, on hunger strike, leading a vigil against the company.

The vigil is intended to be peaceful. Christos says the protesters intend to shame the Atos workers into seeing the misery and pain they are causing, with the hope that they will leave the company, or even better, expose some of their dark secrets.

He said: "We also want to show the people attending this charade of a medical company that they are not alone in the struggle against this large multinational company."

More importantly, Christos says the protesters "want to show David Cameron, we're not prepared to be killed en masse, and we're willing to fight back."

Christos continues with a very sobering thought:

"During the five days of this protest, 50 disabled people will die."

I'm lucky enough never to have experienced a Work Capability Assessment, as I only claim Disability Living Allowance, which is not an unemployment benefit. However, Christos' situation has reminded me of a quote from Benjamin Franklin: "Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are."

I'm not personally affected by the actions of Atos Healthcare. However, I see myself first and foremost as a disabled person. This makes me part of a very special community. I'm outraged that one of my own is having to starve himself, to risk his own life, because of the actions of a large multinational company where few, if any, have the slightest bit of personal experience of disability. The worst thing about Christos’ situation is that if he makes it through the hunger strike alive and still loses his benefits, it is likely that he will continue to starve as a result of being left without enough money to survive. 

Tomorrow, America votes for its next President. Until yesterday, when I heard of Christos’ situation, I was waiting for the result of the election with a great deal of excitement and interest.

However, now that I know that one of my own will be starving for a week, it feels somehow wrong to care about who will have the most powerful job in the world on Wednesday morning.

Christos’ actions make my own problems seem so small. I now feel like the only thing I should care about is whether he will make it through the hunger strike alive.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nigel Farage has urged supporters to buy Mike Read's Ukip Calypso song and push it up to the No 1 spot  

Mike Read’s Ukip calypso is mesmerisingly atrocious — but it's not racist

Matthew Norman
Shirley Shackleton, wife of late journalist Gregory Shackleton, sits next to the grave of the 'Balibo Five' in Jakarta, in 2010  

Letter from Asia: The battle for the truth behind five journalists’ deaths in Indonesia

Andrew Buncombe
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are