More sick and disabled people will face sanctions and workfare when Maximus take over running running the despised assessments for sickness benefits say the DWP who have promised the number of people placed in the Support Group is expected to fall.
The department’s comments come in their response to the latest review into the Work Capability Assessment, the shoddy computer based test used to find sick and disabled people ‘fit for work’ and stop their benefits. Sinister US based outsourcing firm Maximus will take over the assessments from next week after ferocious campaigning by disabled people and benefit claimants led to the notorious Atos ending their involvement with the tests early.
The most recent review was carried out by Paul Litchfield, presumably in his spare time as he is also Chief Medical Officer at BT. Cutting sick and disabled people’s benefits and driving them into poverty is more of a hobby for this bastard. Litchfield is very concerned that the number of people placed in the Support Group after an assessment has been on the rise and says this should be urgently examined. Claimants in this group are those even the DWP agree are too unwell to work and who do not have to jump through endless hoops to prove they are looking for or preparing for work. It is the only group of claimants who cannot be sent on mandated workfare or have their benefits sanctioned for missing a meeting at the Jobcentre. Litchfield thinks there are too many of them, and is particularly worried about the number of young people languishing about in homes and hospitals with serious health conditions when they could be stacking shelves in ASDA for no pay on workfare schemes – or work related activity as he calls it.
As Litchfield will know however, young people, or those of any age in the Support Group, are able to access the Work Programme if they choose. If many of them do not then that says more about the bungled scheme than it does about sick and disabled claimants. The Work Programme is shit. That’s why no-one volunteers for it.
Another of Litchfield’s worries is the use of regulation 35 (2) (b). This rule means that people can be placed in the Support Group automatically if there is “substantial risk” to their mental or physical health if they are found fit for work. This can be done without a face to face assessment and is frequently used – often on the advice of a GP or medical specialist – when a claimant demonstrates suicidal behavior or is at risk of self-harm. Litchfield seems appalled that this group are not being harassed stringently enough by the DWP. Nowhere does he mention the growing number of suicides linked to the Work Capability Assessment . Perhaps he thinks there aren’t enough.
The DWP agree with Litchfield that the numbers in the Support Group are too high and in a frank admission say this is down to more paper based assessments being carried out due to chronic delays that have built up in the system. According to the department: “Following transition to the Centre for Health and Disability Assessments (Maximus) and restoration of the usual proportion of face-to-face assessments it is expected that the level of Support Group outcomes will decline.”
Litchfield must be so relieved to hear that even more sick and disabled claimants will soon be dependent on food banks after having their benefits sanctioned. He won’t be the only one happy at the news. Maximus would like to see as many people on the Work Programme as possible, because they fucking run huge chunks of that as well. No wonder their greedy boss can afford to pay himself $5 million a year.
The Work Capability Assessment is set to get worse. It is more vital than ever that it is scrapped completely. Help make that happen this Monday 2nd March with the first national day of action against new contractors Maximus. Protests, demonstrations and actions are planned in 30 locations throughout the UK and even one in Toronto! Full details of the nearest protest to you are available in this handy post from Disabled People Against Cuts. Please help spread the word and let’s make Maximus feel uncomfortable for a change.
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