A DWP contractor just made £26m profit by ‘exploiting’ disabled people

The DWP logo and a protest over Maximus
Steve Topple

A Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) contractor has revealed it made £26m profit in a year. But it’s under fire because it made this cash from running the controversial Work Capability Assessments (WCAs). As one campaign group put it, the company has made a “fast buck” by “exploiting disabled people”.

The DWP: money for old rope

As the Times reported [paywall], Maximus is one of three firms which do WCAs. But as Unite Magazine detailed, the US firm (under the banner of Centre for Health and Disability Assessments) has made £26m profit. This was just in the year from September 2017. It’s a rise in its profit margins from 8.4% to 16.1%.

Maximus began doing WCAs in March 2015. The DWP recently extended its contract to March 2020. But as The Canary revealed, the DWP pays Maximus a lot of money to do WCAs; over £15m in June 2018 alone. The total value of the contract to March 2018 was thought to be £595m.

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This is despite it missing DWP targets. It was also allegedly involved in the DWP ‘Kill Yourself‘ scandal. The scandal involved WCA assessors reportedly asking claimants ‘why they hadn’t killed themselves yet’. Maximus denied any wrongdoing.

But…!

Maximus told [paywall] the Times:

Since taking over the service in 2015, we have improved the experience for everyone we assess.

The time people spend in the assessment process has more than halved, we have doubled the number of clinical staff and consistently met the majority of our performance targets.

It also said [paywall] that the DWP told it:

Maximus had won the contract after a competitive bidding process, adding: ‘We have made significant improvements to the assessments and continually review these contracts.’

“Exploiting disabled people”

But Bob Ellard from campaign group Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) hit back. He told The Canary:

It’s nice work if you can get it; if you don’t mind exploiting disabled people and causing them endless harm and despair. All just to make a fast buck.

As the Metro reported, claimants win around 69% of ESA appeals. This means firms like Maximus are often getting WCAs wrong. As Labour’s Debbie Abrahams said:

the assessment process is a total failure and not fit for purpose.

But then, the DWP pays Maximus based on the volume of WCAs it does. So it may be of little wonder that it’s treating it as a “fast buck”, tick-box exercise. Maximus is failing left, right and centre. Anyone who’s been through a WCA will tell you that.

Get Involved!

– Support the blogs Universal Credit SuffererPolitics and Insights and The Poor Side of Life.

– Get involved with DPAC, fighting for disabled people’s rights.

Featured image via Roger Blackwell – Flickr and UK government – Wikimedia 

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Steve Topple