The programme, produced by ABC (and still viewable here), tells a story which will be familiar to all those in the UK forced to attend outsourced schemes such as Iain Duncan Smith’s Work Programme. Claimants had their benefits stopped for no reason, signatures on paperwork were faked and the most marginalised claimants were parked – meaning abandoned completely by the companies who saw no profit in helping them. Maximus dominate the welfare-to-work sector in Australia, and have several contracts running similar schemes in the UK.
According to an analyst on finance website Seeking Alpha, Maximus earn 10% of their revenue in Australia and that could now be under threat due to a ‘short term negative news cycle’. They haven’t fucking seen anything yet.
Tomorrow (2nd March 2015) over 30 towns and cities in the UK will hold protests against the company due to their upcoming involvement in the despised Work Capability Assessment (WCA). These are the shoddy tests used to strip benefits from sick and disabled people by declaring them ‘fit for work’. Previous contractor Atos were chased out of the assessments after their corporate reputation was destroyed by five years of ferocious campaigning by claimants. Maximus take over this week.
The DWP think the main problem with the WCA is how it is perceived. Amusingly new contractors Maximus boasted they would not face protests like their predecessors because they were going to carry out the assessments in a ‘timely manner’. Speaking to the BBC a representative of the company said: “There is a need to better explain to people that they’re not coming to an exam, they’re coming to an interview.”
They must think we are fucking idiots. The stated intention of the WCA, when it was first launched by Labour in 2008, was to strip out of work sickness benefits from one million people. No amount of scatter cushions in assessment centres or nicely worded letters will change that. Just like Atos, Maximus have been employed to stop people’s benefits and everybody knows it. And just like Atos, that process will lead to suicides, deterioration in people’s health and desperate poverty.
The Work Capability Assessment is based on three flawed assumptions. The first is the ludicrous medical consensus which claims that work is good for you in almost any circumstances despite evidence which shows poor quality jobs can be worse for your health than unemployment. The second is that there is plenty of work to go round if people just try hard enough, yet there are only 700,000 vacancies currently available and just short of two million unemployed people desperate for a job – a figure which does not include and additional two and a half million sickness benefit claimants. And the third and perhaps most toxic is that large numbers of people on out of work sickness or disability benefits are scroungers, workshy, fraudulent or faking their health condition.
The UK does not have significantly more people on out of work sickness or disability benefits than countries with comparable economies. Every single claimant has already been signed off as unable to work by their own GP – a pre-condition of claiming sickness benefits. Most sickness benefit claims are temporary, when people get better they leave benefits and go back to work. The amount of fraud in the system is tiny because it’s just not worth the risk of faking an illness and risking increasingly severe criminal penalties for the sake of an extra £30 odd quid a week compared to Jobseeker’s Allowance.
Because the entire process is based on lies, these assessments cannot be reformed, improved, or made fair. The WCA is driving people to despair and even their deaths in some tragic cases, all to save trivial amounts of money. It needs to be scrapped, immediately. Since neither of the main politial parties are prepared to do that it needs to be made unprofitable. That is all that sinister corporate bastards like Maximus understand. And it can be made unprofitable, as Atos recently found out to their cost. So let’s do it again. Relentlessly and starting tomorrow.
Please help spread the word about the Day of Action Against Maximus, full details at: http://dpac.uk.net/2015/02/your-all-in-one-guide-to-the-maximus-national-day-of-action-2nd-march-scrapwca-maximarse/
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