National disabled people’s organisation wins contract to teach equality to Maximus

6 October 2014

Disability Rights UK (DR UK) have been permitted to provide disability equality training workshops to staff from US-owned company, Maximus. They will provide training to about 1,600 members of staff employed by the Centre for Health and Disability Assessments (CHDA).

DR UK will deliver 100 two-hour workshops and require all CHDA staff to attend – including healthcare professionals, managers and reception staff.

The decision to work with Maximus on a training contract that could be worth up to £100,000 was reignited following allegations against Maximus that its CHDA discriminates against disabled staff by falling to provide them with the adjustments they need to do their jobs.

One former member of staff said at the time: “If they can’t look after the disabled people who are working for them – not recognising their needs and what they need to do the job – how on earth have they got the audacity to make judgments on disabled people coming into their office for assessments?”

In March 2015, Maximus took over the work capability assessment (WCA) contract – which involved testing disabled people’s eligibility for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and outsourced it from another discredited company, Atos. For this reason, critics such as the Disabled People Against Cuts began to grow concerns and sited that DR UK had “once again sold their legitimacy to the highest bidder”.

Rick Burgess, co-founder of New Approach, which was set up to campaign against theWCA said there was often a “fine line between harm reduction and enabling abuse”, and added: “Given what we know of the Department for Work and Pensions and Maximus, I have to say that DR UK have betrayed us again and sided with abusive practice.”

“They will not in any way be able to alter policy or the law, so the WCA will remain a fake medical inflicted by people with disability denial targets.”

“The time for working with the WCA and making it less harmful has long passed and it has been clear for years that the government never had any good faith intention of implementing harm reduction.”

He also added: “DR UK are doing their job of laundering government policy, taking the money and making retroactive rationalisations after the fact to save what is left of their public reputation.”

Philip Connolly, policy and development manager for Disability Rights UK, in response defended the decision to work with Maximus and said: “DR UK won the contact to provide equality training to healthcare professionals carrying out the work capability assessment earlier this year.”

“We decided, after much deliberation, to apply for the contract because we knew we could provide high quality trainers with personal experience of disability, and therefore could have an impact on healthcare professionals delivering the work capability assessment.”

“We have always said the WCA is flawed and that hasn’t changed.”

“We were also very careful to ensure the contract with Maximus specifically allows us to be vocal and clear about the WCA. It is a wasteful and stressful test which doesn’t properly assess people’s abilities.”