Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Maximus Under Threat, Space Invaders And PIP Failure

What will life be like for claimants with Stephen Crabb as secretary of state for work and pensions?

We should get our first real indication on 12 April, when Crabb will give a speech setting out his vision.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Times is claiming that Crabb plans to try to get out of the current work capability assessment contract with Maximus and also look again at the PIP assessment contracts held by Atos and Capita.

At this stage a renegotiation looks more probable than simply sacking Maximus – who else is likely to be willing and able to take on the job now?

So, any changes to the current WCA contract are more likely to be aimed at saving the DWP cash than making things fairer for claimants.

Crabb is apparently also instructing the DWP to stop blocking freedom of information requests relating to universal credit. But this is almost certainly not the dawn of a new age of openness at the DWP. Instead, it is a chance for the government to discredit IDS by showing just what a mess UC is currently in.

Nor is it likely to be the beginning of the end for universal credit, just an opportunity to increase the timescale for full roll-out even further whilst heaping the blame on IDS.

According to the Times, Crabb will also say that his aim is for work coaches delivering universal credit to be held in the same esteem as NHS nurses.

Given the role of work coaches in pushing people onto forced labour schemes and helping to impose sanctions on claimants which have led to suicides, this seems like a bizarrely far-fetched idea.

And it is, perhaps, this IDS-like disconnection from reality that gives us the best indication of what a dire secretary of state Stephen Crabb is going to be. There’s definitely no point in looking to him for any understanding of what life is really like for sick and disabled claimants.

In the meantime, the work of dehumanising claimants continues at every level of the DWP.

The Mirror carried a story this week showing a huge poster in a jobcentre plus entitled ‘Yardley ESA challenge’. ESA claimants are depicted as aliens in an old style Space Invaders game, being destroyed by shots from what must be Jobcentre Plus staff.

One of those saintly work coaches pulling the trigger, perhaps.

Finally, we have the unsurprising news that PIP is turning into another grand DWP failure, with the intended 20% savings compared to DLA now being predicted to be just 5%. After the costs of the PIP assessment regime and additional appeals are taken into account, the final savings are likely to be tiny.

6 April 2016 update

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