Archive for the ‘Disabilities’ Category

Sue Marsh, author of blog Diary of a Benefit Scrounger, stunned fellow disability campaigners by announcing on Friday the 9th of January via her blog that she has accepted a job with US firm Maximus.

Maximus was awarded the £500 million contract by the government to replace ATOS, administering the much-maligned Work Capability Assessment (WCA) for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimants on behalf of the DWP.
The company brings it’s own fair share of controversy across the Atlantic, having been involved in several claims & scandals in the US – a few examples of which have been collated here by Tom Pride on Pride’s Purge.

So why is this such a shock? Marsh has been actively involved in the campaign scene for around 5 years with issues like the Spartacus Report and the unfit-for-purpose WCA, writing about them on her blog.
With such controversy surrounding the assessment and associated processes for many disability campaigners, it’s little wonder people are shocked with some left feeling betrayed.

Sue claims she has accepted the job as a ‘Head of Customer Experience’ to enable her to enact change from within the company itself – sort of a ‘if you can’t beat em, join em’ strategy. Whether she is able to encourage any form of change or not remains to be seen. Most likely the best possible outcome she could perhaps achieve would be a ‘more comfortable’ experience for ESA claimants undergoing assessment (Maximus call them ‘customers’ – giving the illusion of choice), it’s extremely unlikely she’ll be able to effect any change in the assessment process itself. A process which has been ruled as discriminating against mentally ill claimants.

Regardless of what Sue may or may not be able to achieve within the company however, is slightly irrelevant compared to the issue really riling up disabled people after hearing the news. Many people that read Sue’s blog and those that post to disability campaign groups on Facebook etc, are slightly more concerned by the fact that Sue has jumped straight from being in the support group of ESA into a full time, highly demanding job. This then presents worries that Iain Duncan Smith’s next move will be to place Sue on a podium as a shining example of how disability benefit claimants in the support group can all manage to work and should be doing the same.

It doesn’t matter to the government that each individual person claiming ESA & DLA have health problems unique to themselves, and that a pain level one person could tolerate may be unbearable to another. The only thing that matters to the heartless, callous party in power is that they can say they were right to impose sanctions on claimants, and that they’ve saved the taxpayer however many ¬£millions. Never mind the fact that people are committing suicide because they can’t physically manage to get through the day. And their allowance has been stopped due to a civil servant working to targets (yes – ‘those’ targets that IDS claimed didn’t exist) giving no consideration as to their day-to-day life and how their condition affects them.

Life is already humiliating enough for those having to claim ESA, considering the number of hoops to be jumped through to prove disability and incapability of working. With it being renamed from Incapacity Benefit & Income Support to Employment Support Allowance, it rather gives the impression of a form of pocket money, handed out if you’ve been a good boy/girl this week. How patronising.

Many people with disabilities already live in fear of the dreaded brown envelope arriving with the morning post, summoning them to yet another horrendous WCA with the threat of a sanction looming. Many have withdrawn from social contact, other than communicating through the internet, as they’re petrified of being sanctioned for having the gall to enjoy themselves on one of their extremely rare good days. So many people partaking in the witchhunt devised by the government & media to hound disability claimants either have no idea, or care not that a lot of disabled people may have one good day, which can be followed by several days of being unable to get out of bed with levels of pain which make you wish you didn’t exist. Sadly, a large proportion of the public are blinkered to the truth that the majority of those receiving benefits are NOT doing so fraudulently, yet DWP policies enforced by ATOS – soon to be Maximus – work to governmental targets, rather than taking human suffering into account.

The last thing the section of society living with crippling conditions (be they mental, physical or both) needs, is yet another presumption/assumption about their lives. This situation, spun by the government and media, could be explosive, possibly creating far, far more casualties & fatalities in the months to come. I for one hope it turns out to be a dud, and that Sue Marsh is able to achieve some sort of improvement within Maximus…only time will tell.