It is hard to accept when someone you trusted has stabbed you in the back. It is unsuprising that there are those who cling to the – frankly fucking ludicrous notion – that the appoinment of a prominent claimant and disability campaigner to a highly paid role with Maximus represents a cunning plan by Sue Marsh to take down the system from the inside. Or that she is still working for claimants really, not the people who are paying her £75,000 a year. The sad truth is that seemingly nice people do shitty things for a lot less money than that every single day. No matter what lies Sue has told herself, and us to justify this betrayal, do not believe for a second that it is Maximus who are being played.
Maximus are not idiots. They are as slick a bunch of bastards as you are likely to find and have ridden out a string of scandals in the US. They make Atos look like Mary fucking Poppins. And they knew exactly what they were taking on when Iain Duncan Smith offered them the contract to replace Atos running the despised Work Capability Assessment (WCA).
Atos couldn’t resist the lure of lucrative government contracts, but they always secretly fancied themselves as one of those trendy dotcom type companies like google or facebook. That’s why they sponsored the Paralympic Games in a crude attempt to spin away their appalling treatment of sick and disabled people. It’s why they were so over-sensitive to online pressure that they spent half their time trying to get websites run by disabled people shut down. And it’s why after several years of solid of militant campaiging by disabled people, they slunk away from their contract to assess people claiming out of work sickness or disability benefits and hoped we wouldn’t notice that they are still carrying out a similar regime for those claiming Personal Independence Payments (PIPs).
Maximus have no such pretensions. This is a company that is rotten from top to bottom. The kind of company who would pick out a skint disability campaigner and offer them a life changing sum of money to turn on the people they claimed to support. The sort of shady corporate operation who know only too well the disruption and disagreement this will cause amongst the disabled people’s movement and consider this money well spent. They are not idots. They have thought about this very hard.
The appointment of Sue Marsh, on a huge salary in a role she has no formal experience in, is a bribe plain and simple. Perhaps most galling of all, it is a bribe with our money. Ultimately this salary will be paid by the tax payer, out of money saved in the social security system by stripping benefits from sick and disabled people.
Anyone who has followed the tortuous debates amongst politicians and bureacrats about the Work Capability Assessment will have know that the stated aim of the DWP is to change the perception of the process, not the reality. They honestly believe that if assessors are just a bit nicer to people, and the letters they send out are slightly less scary, then no-one will notice that their benefits are being taken away for the most spurious of reasons. The hiring of Sue Marsh is part of attempting to change those perceptions and so is born a fluffy new WCA that operates exactly the same way as the old one, but with the ringing endorsement of a former benefit scrounger and claimant activist. Be in no doubt, Sue’s appointment will have been cleared by the DWP and probably even Iain Duncan Smith himself, who must be pissing himself. And he is the only one with the power to make any significant change to the WCA, not Maximus, and certainly not Sue Marsh.
The Work Capability Assessment is on the point of collapse. The abrupt exit of Atos plunged a project that was already woefully behind schedule into chaos. Public opinion is turning against these vicious tests, not least within the medical establishment. The biggest possible threat to the future of the WCA now is that they can’t find enough so called health professionals to carry out the tests and clear the backlog. Atos warned of this problem themselves in their tender for PIP. This perhaps is the main reason for Sue’s appointment, so that Maximus can try and give the impression to potential new recruits that they are different from Atos in style if not substance. The call from claimants and campaigners to the medical sector has been please don’t work for Atos. But even Sue Marsh works for Maximus the company will claim, we’re different. She has not been hired to modify the WCA, to make it fairer, or even nicer. She has been brought in to help try and save it.
We do not know how deep Sue’s treachery goes, but in the interests of basic security we must make one assumption. Any information that you have ever given Sue Marsh should now be assumed to be in the hands of Maximus, the DWP, and particularly if you have taken part in protests or direct action, probably the police as well.
With all that said the best thing we can do now is put this behind us and build for the first of many days of action against Maximus – which has been called by Disabled People Against Cuts for the 2nd March. Maximus would be only too happy for Sue to become a lightning rod for protests and a distraction from the real issue – which is the brutality of the Work Capability Assessment no matter how it is carried out, or by who. Do not forget the original aim of this policy – to strip benefits from one million people – has not changed. Do forget Sue Marsh and let’s move on from this and double our efforts to destroy the Work Capability Assessment for good.
Above cartoon from the ever vigilent Crippen, disabled cartoonist: www.crippencartoons.co.uk
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