Yesterday I accompanied someone to his Work Capability Assessment. Let’s call him Jack. Jack had one of those lists of ailments that spill off the form onto further pieces of paper, and quite clearly should never have been called in at all. And he already had serious mobility problems before having a toe amputated four days earlier. He arrived by taxi with his mother and had to walk slowly, leaning on a stick and steadying himself on her arm. Although there is parking in front of the assessment centre, this is only for the people who work in the building and it is protected by a barrier. The taxi had to stop the other side of the barrier, and Jack had to make his way slowly across the parking area. To someone in good health, the distance from barrier to door, across the outer lobby and down the corridor might not seem much, but the people coming to the centre are not in good health. Jack struggled, and half way down the corridor he fell full length on the floor. Slowly, he managed to get up and make it the remaining distance to the waiting room. When he was at last sitting down he rolled up his trouser leg and found he had a raw red graze on his knee. I asked the receptionist for an antiseptic wipe and he said they didn’t have anything. I pointed out that every workplace has a legal requirement to have a first aid box, but he was unmoved. I pointed out that we were in an office full of nurses, but he was equally unimpressed, as was the nurse who had come into the office behind him. If the graze had been worse I would have been more insistent, but I didn’t want to antagonise them before the assessment had even begun. I was not optimistic when I found that it was the nurse we had seen earlier who was doing the assessment; but not long after she had started her questions, Jack produced a crumpled sheet of notes from his doctor. She took it away and when she came back she told us she didn’t need anything further. They had only called him in because his doctor had not sent them information when they had requested it!
The assessments are run by multi-national private company, Maximus, who took over from ATOS. The parody of the Maximus logo I have used above was drawn by activist illustrator Phill Evans, but the original, below, is not much better: ordinary folk holding up their fancy roof. Was the designer trying to make a point?