Atos, the WCA and parallels to attacks on refugees


Tonight’s Channel 4 Dispatches programme (8pm) carries an undercover report of the Work Capability Assessments (WCA) delivered for the British state by the for-profit company Atos. The WCA is being used to reduce support for thousands of disabled people on the basis of their supposed ‘fitness for work’. You might wonder about the relevance of this to a book about refugees. Both the WCA and the asylum system involve a decision making process that is formally fair, on the basis of each individual case, but which evidence suggests is set up to fail people.* Both refugees and disabled people make needs-based claims for support, which poses an implicit threat to the dominance of wage labour as the only acceptable condition for support. The state’s attacks on refugees and disabled people are not just about saving the government money by reducing entitlements, they play a political role increasing labour market discipline, as part of the state’s attempts to increase exploitation as part of an attempt to escape the capitalist crisis. Systematic denial of the needs of disabled people and refugees is thus part of the same process that is increasing demands for workers to be ‘flexible’ (to the needs of employers) and accept reductions in their standard of living. It is therefore in the interests of the entire working class to unite against these attacks, and other sections of the working class can draw inspiration from the struggles that are already been fought by refugees and disabled people. There’s more information about the Dispatches programme on the Guardian website (, and after tonight the programme should be available on its website for the next week (

* As well as inconsistency, a lack of transparency and a culture of mistrust of service users, the success rates of appeals in both systems suggest the assessment process is flawed. In the case of asylum the state has responded to this by reducing the opportunities for appeal.


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