WinVisible is among those supporting Joy Dove, mother of Jodey Whiting. On 10 June, DWP officials travelled to meet Jodey’s bereaved parents at the office of her MP, where they told her they have made many changes. They told her that Mind is providing training to staff. Read the Disability News Service report of the meeting here.
In our experience doing casework every day, critically vulnerable women claimants are still being cut off for “failure to attend” where their good cause is dismissed, like what happened to Jodey. When they are made suicidal, we are supporting them to get through a crisis entirely caused by Maximus and the DWP. Their stress is compounded by their Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support being stopped when their ESA is cut off, further disruption which takes more time and effort to sort out.
The DWP lipservice to mental distress avoids the issue that Jodey missed the appointment because she was in hospital with pneumonia – a physical health reason. Two separate DWP decision-makers rejected her good cause because no official NHS proof was attached. They didn’t check her mental health history, but in any case, she should have been believed on her own evidence. The same is happening to others now.
No amount of training by Mind or others can make a brutal system acceptable. In 2015, Maximus took over the ESA contract from Atos. Sue Marsh, formerly an anti-Atos/Work Capability Assessment disabled campaigner, took up a post with Maximus as “Head of Customer Experience” for a reputed salary of £60,000. Disability Rights UK also had to issue a public statement on why they took a contract to train Maximus staff on disability equality and awareness training.
The Work Capability Assessment must be scrapped and replaced with financial support, not the punitive “back-to-work” policy there is now. Those who can do waged work already do, on top of coping with disability, which is already work in itself. Most are low earners who can be even worse off. Disabled women’s pay is especially low — in discussing the pay gap disabled women’s disadvantage is often underestimated, including by the EHRC, because disabled women are compared with women generally who are already underpaid and discriminated against. The government also closed Remploy factories where disabled people had decent wages and union rights, against the wishes of employees.