‘Stop the Work Capability Assessment’ – that’s the demand from disability campaigners in Sheffield as they prepare to take action against the government’s new ‘fitness for work’ assessors Maximus.
The action by DPAC Sheffield is supported by Unite Community South Yorkshire and UKUncut Sheffield; up to 100 people will gather at 1pm on Monday, 2 March at Castle Square tram stop in Sheffield city centre followed by a march to the Maximus assessment centre at Hartshead Square.
Campaigners have already claimed victory in forcing the previous provider Atos out of the contract with DWP; they claim that Maximus is being paid twice as much for their contract whilst imposing judgements that have driven thousands of people to take their own lives after DWP removed their social security.
Protesters point out that this issue doesn’t only affect disabled people but also affects anyone who is injured or taken ill whilst working; Maximus are taking over NHS occupational health contracts that will affect working people signed-off as sick and unable to work.
Campaigners will be calling for NHS experts to take over all fitness for work and occupational health assessments.
Jennifer Dunstan of DPAC Sheffield said:
“ The Work Capability Assessment Scheme is a highly efficient government tool for getting deserving people off benefits and a frighteningly efficient way to drive those people to financial deprivation, starvation and suicide. The fact that long term disabled and sick people in receipt of benefits are being constantly used as a scape-goat, as a strain on the country’s finances is absolutely disgraceful, especially when you consider what a tiny percentage of the annual budget this represents.
It is alarming that this government is happier to actively target and sanction vulnerable people than it is to clamp down on and prosecute huge corporations like HSBC and other tax evaders. If they did, there would be no need for austerity. Being bombarded with stories of MPs complaining that they’re “scrabbling around” on £67,000 a year is offensive when we’re expected to survive below the poverty line. That’s what this protest is about; it’s a matter of survival.”
Protesters will be supported by people taking action against workfare and benefit sanctions ahead of a further action taking place later in March.
Stuart Smith of Unite Community South Yorkshire said:
“Our union keeps meeting people with “hidden” disabilities like mental health problems or dyslexia who are getting their benefits stopped through sanctions. This robs them of their dignity and makes it even harder for them to find work. It looks to us like some of the most vulnerable claimants are being picked on so that the DWP and Job Centres can reach their benefit sanction targets”.
Maximus HQ in Toronto, Canada will also be targeted by protesters on the same day.