Cumbernauld's Unemployed Workers' Centre reacts to Work Capability Assessment contract announcement

Written by Scott Campbell.
Published at 19:29 on 21 November 2014.
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John Miller is the Centre's Chairperson.                                                                                                                                        Picture: Scott Campbell for Cumbernauld Media.

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CUMBERNAULD and Kilsyth Unemployed Workers' Centre has said that "no lessons have been learnt" in hiring a private company to administer welfare benefit assessments, after the UK Government announced that U.S. giant, Maximus, had been hired to replace the controversial French company, ATOS.

The UK Government made the announcement late last month, after ATOS quit their contract to administer 'work capability assessments', in May.

According to the BBC, the new deal with Maximus is worth approximately £500 million over three-and-a-half years, and means that individuals who apply for Employment and Support Allowance, due to illness or disability, will have to attend a 'Work Capability Assessment' before having their claim processed.

Cumbernauld and Kilsyth Unemployed Workers' Centre has this afternoon (21st November) reacted to the announcement, by saying they have "serious concerns that locally our workload will increase as a result of this decision".

John Miller, Chairperson of Cumbernauld and Kilsyth Unemployed Workers' Centre commented: "The Cumbernauld & Kilsyth Unemployed Workers Centre note the decision of the UK Tory-Lib Dem coalition government decision to award a contract for the assessment of welfare benefits to the private American company Maximus. This follows on from the public exposure of the previous incumbent private French company Atos in failing to administer the same contract fairly, efficiently and compassionately. 

"The CKUWC takes no pleasure in having to raise concerns that no lessons have been learnt from the previous failure which saw cases of terminally ill people being assessed as fit for work when quite patently clients were clearly not. 

"We have serious concerns that locally our workload will increase as a result of this decision and at the same time we would ask clients to report instances of maladministration to the appropriate bodies. We will provide as much assistance as possible despite our limited resources."

Mr Miller added: "The CKUWC believe private sector involvement, that is the maximisation of profit, in a process administrating a public service to the sick and disabled is incompatible. A closer analysis of Maximus`s track record specifically in Wisconsin, USA shows that there is no irony at all in the naming of this company as an organisation which seeks to boost its coffers at the expense of the public purse and to the detriment of the public at large. It has been caught out on numerous occasions in regard to incompetence, discrimination and alleged fraud. An investigation into Maximus`s work found it sloppy and had an high error rate in comparison to public sector employees doing similar work.

"Local welfare rights organisations, campaign groups and elected and non-elected council representatives have a duty to the public to be vigilant regard the practices of this company. The CKUWC therefore calls upon local councillors to engage with us in monitoring the new contract and where need be bringing any potential acts of unfairness into the public domain."
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