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Forum => News and Current Affairs. => Topic started by: Sunshine on 19 Jan 2015 02:08PM

Title: Maximus and its New Approach is it better than ATOS
Post by: Sunshine on 19 Jan 2015 02:08PM
http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/jan/18/after-hated-atos-quits-will-maximus-make-work-assessments-less-arduous

Quote
Aware that Atos’s global reputation took a savaging from its association with the fitness-for-work programme, the new firm will not be substituting its own company logo for Atos’s on the letters sent to benefits claimants. Instead, it will brand the business with a more “neutral name”,

The more I read things like that the more I think that the Maximus approach is going to be one winning hearts and minds and not making significant changes to the system. Grooming is a strong word to use but it is a method used by people in power to convince those with little or no power to agree with processes which are not in their best interest.

Maximus have been chosen to sell us an idea and in the same way that advertising agencies persuade us to buy junk food Maximus will do the same thing to convince us to be less fearful and stressed about the process of claiming ESA. This is why questions are already being asked on what language to use when referring to people who claim welfare benefits. This is the sort of windowdressing that I find depressing because in my opinion it lacks honesty - call me a claimant because that is what I am.

If there really was no money in the budget to pay a fair level of welfare benefits to the sick and disabled we could to a large degree accept the situations we live in as a matter of fact rather than something we are not advocates should be trying to change. The thing is there is money in the budget to pay a fair level of welfare benefits and the government is choosing to do this.
Title: Re: Maximus and its New Approach is it better than ATOS
Post by: seegee on 19 Jan 2015 04:29PM
Maximus can't make significant changes because parliament sets the things that are assessed & how people are found fit for work, for "work-related activity" or unfit for either - using a points system rather than the assessor's professional judgement.  Though assessors may be able to put comments in a "further info" box the decision-maker can ignore that if the things in other boxes don't add up to "unfit for work".  The company (Atos, Maximus, whoever might be doing PIP assessments...) is paid to gather information from claimants and told exactly what kinds of ability/ other things they should be looking for by the DWP

Repeated re-designs of ESA and the beginnings of similar problems with PIP descriptors must be costing a fortune - if it's about saving money they really should have stopped the whole thing ages ago and gone back to the system they used under IB, but that might mean admitting it's a wrong-headed idea... and politicians/ very senior civil servants have difficulty admitting they got things wrong.

Title: Re: Maximus and its New Approach is it better than ATOS
Post by: lankou on 19 Jan 2015 04:40PM

Maximus can't make significant changes .

Neither can Sue Marsh, plus she has been gagged, so until she gets the sack, or realises the gravity of her mistake we won't find out.
Title: Re: Maximus and its New Approach is it better than ATOS
Post by: KizzyKazaer on 19 Jan 2015 04:46PM
In a nutshell there, Seegee  >thumbsup<

Quote
Maximus have been chosen to sell us an idea and in the same way that advertising agencies persuade us to buy junk food Maximus will do the same thing to convince us to be less fearful and stressed about the process of claiming ESA. This is why questions are already being asked on what language to use when referring to people who claim welfare benefits.

Who is asking these questions, I wonder - when I worked for DSS/DWP late 90s/early 2000s, we were calling claimants 'customers', that was pretty much set in stone... Though of course, staff had a different name altogether amongst themselves for particularly vexatious and unpleasant 'customers'  >whistle< 

Title: Re: Maximus and its New Approach is it better than ATOS
Post by: Prabhakari on 19 Jan 2015 05:09PM
With regard to money, the government have been able to find billions of pounds for the construction of new Trident Class submarines.

But they are happy to cut our benefits to the bone, and to take them away as well.
Title: Re: Maximus and its New Approach is it better than ATOS
Post by: seegee on 19 Jan 2015 06:11PM
I am not a customer of DWP, I am a claimant of certain monies from govt. (via DWP, via Atos...). 

If I was a customer who had choices of where to claim I would choose somewhere with fewer layers of management and no profit-making companies, since they are costing more government money than employing assessors directly would be... and I don't actually want to spend more govt. money than is necessary in assessments, certainly not in profits to companies.  I'd rather it was spent in training more staff to work in the NHS, thanks.

Am I particularly stupid in seeing no gain in govt. giving money away in profits to private companies when they could spend less by employing people directly?  Is there some magical money-tree that doesn't work with state-owned enterprises but only with private corporations?


Title: Re: Maximus and its New Approach is it better than ATOS
Post by: Dic Penderyn on 19 Jan 2015 06:26PM
I think it's been said before Pigs, snouts, troughs.
Title: Re: Maximus and its New Approach is it better than ATOS
Post by: NeuralgicNeurotic on 19 Jan 2015 07:45PM
Quote
Grooming is a strong word to use but it is a method used by people in power to convince those with little or no power to agree with processes which are not in their best interest.

'Perception Management' is the phrase used in the corporate world, and Maximus, being actively involved in the health/income protection insurance industry will be much better practised at it than Atos ever was.
Title: Re: Maximus and its New Approach is it better than ATOS
Post by: seegee on 19 Jan 2015 07:49PM
With regard to money, the government have been able to find billions of pounds for the construction of new Trident Class submarines.

But they are happy to cut our benefits to the bone, and to take them away as well.


As for Trident - it seems "we need a nuclear deterrent because we'd be an important target otherwise"... whereas I've always wondered if we'd cease to be an important target if we didn't have any nuclear weapons & didn't get involved in wars thousands of miles away or take a place on the UN Security Council. 

Would we then be simply a middle-sized nation consisting of a few islands off the coast of Europe, of little interest to most except as a trade partner (we buy lots of fruit, veg, computers & other goods from around the world) and stock exchange?

Title: Re: Maximus and its New Approach is it better than ATOS
Post by: ATurtle on 20 Jan 2015 01:13PM
I think this idea of calling claimants "Customers" is ridiculous, you can't soften the outline of the letter by calling people customers.

Quote
Dear Fred Bloggs,

As a customer of the DWP you will be aware that to qualify for Employment and Support Allowance, there is a need for you to undergo a Work Capability Assessment (WCA). 

I would like to warn you that the decision made following this WCA cannot be challenged without you being taken off benefits while the DWP check if you are going to win a tribunal.  If you should miss this assessment, you will have your benefits stopped.  So basically get here and hope the assessor likes you!
Title: Re: Maximus and its New Approach is it better than ATOS
Post by: DarthVector on 20 Jan 2015 01:37PM
Am I particularly stupid in seeing no gain in govt. giving money away in profits to private companies when they could spend less by employing people directly?  Is there some magical money-tree that doesn't work with state-owned enterprises but only with private corporations?

No, you're not stupid. I see it as a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" kind of situation.

The theory behind privatisation is that lack of competition allows state-run organisations to become sclerotic behemoths with the main objective of providing jobs for life, and a secondary objective of providing a service. Introducing competition through privatisation is supposed to bring such an enormous efficiency increase that private companies can deliver savings to the Government and make a profit.

The snag is, private companies have the main objective of making a profit and a secondary objective of delivering a service. Any efficiency increases tend to disappear into the company's profit line, instead of saving money for the taxpayer.

It can be argued that state-run organisations are more likely to contribute to the real economy by putting money in their employees' pockets, rather than sending it off to corporate shareholders. I'm not sure whether that's enough to compensate for state inefficiency, but it's a positive point, at least.

The best solution probably lies in a compromise position where both state-run organisations and private companies have a role in providing a given service, so that no-one can get too comfortable. Unfortunately, that compromise is inherently unstable, because both sides try to secure their positions by taking over full responsibility for the service. This makes it very easy for ideological politicians to destroy the precarious balance by pushing it too far towards the side they favour.

Choose your players - state, corporate and political - and watch them like a hawk, basically.
Title: Re: Maximus and its New Approach is it better than ATOS
Post by: oldtone27 on 20 Jan 2015 02:07PM
I think Darth has summed up the situation perfectly.

Neither private nor public corporations can be relied on to deliver efficient cost effective systems unless very carefully supervised.

Competition, which is intended to keep costs reasonable, cause private corporations to focus on finance and not service.

Public corporations tend to be monopolies in which there is little incentive to minimise costs and every opportunity for bureaucratic empire building.

Worse of all is the private monopoly.

However if the supervision is by politicians then political gain becomes the focus. The user looses always round. We haven't found a workable solution yet.
Title: Re: Maximus and its New Approach is it better than ATOS
Post by: boccius on 21 Jan 2015 02:21PM
I watched 'Threads' the other day - the docu-drama from the early 1980s portraying the fictitious start of World War 3, from the perspective of ordinary people in Sheffield.

A terrifying, appalling scenario. A 'limited' exchange of nuclear weapons leading to the virtual elimination of civilised life as we understand it. Population and life-styles back to medieval levels.

My point? This programme was made 30 years ago, and even then, when the 'cold' war was still some sort of reality, we KNEW what nuclear war would mean - mutually assured destruction.

And yet NOW, 30 years on, the Cold War a thing of the past, governments and arms manufacturers are STILL pushing the same old lie: that (a) we need nuclear weapons, and that (b) (maybe the worst lie of all) that a nuclear war could be won, and would be worth winning!

Who benefits from 'us' having Trident? Certainly not US.

Silly dream of course, but maybe one day a government will have the courage to scrap almost all our armed forces (just leaving enough for air-sea rescue etc)., and we will all be able to live better - and have some to give away.

Dream on.

A.
Title: Re: Maximus and its New Approach is it better than ATOS
Post by: Pentesalie on 21 Jan 2015 04:51PM
As Maximus are hiring more OTs and less Doctors, 'because they're cheaper', how do they expect the service to get better?
Title: Re: Maximus and its New Approach is it better than ATOS
Post by: Sunny Clouds on 22 Jan 2015 11:54AM
I think there's a problem with 'customer' and I initially wrote out a long spiel about language and what an early language teacher of mine called the 'flavours' of words.

However, I want to approach this from a different direction.

Many years ago, the boss of the place where I worked decided to put together a group/panel of people from each of a range of departments providing what I'll call front-facing services.  We were told that it had been decided that we needed to work out how to implement a policy of having a 'customer service attitude'.  You should have heard the outcry.  "I don't have customers, I have clients."  "I don't have customers, I have..."

Then someone said that wasn't the point.  What mattered was the attitude and that actually people probably don't consider it negative to be called a customer if they quickly sense that being a customer is a good thing.  But calling our customers customers wasn't necessary, only that attitude was.  I think in many ways they were right.

Now I'm going to look specifically at a wider use of customer.  I've already picked up in this thread on some common associations in people's minds,  but let's see if I can paint a picture.

If an organisation calls you a customer, it's implying that you have a choice whether to use their services and that in order to get you to use their services, they'll provide good services, they'll meet your expectations and demands.

But now let's look at, say, electricity.  You're not just a resident paying your electricity bills, no, you're a customer.  Do you actually get better electricity?  Is it actually a better price relative to average income than it was when it was the town electricity supply?  Do you actually get treated with more respect?  You can tell that I think that for most people the answer is no.

Take it a step further.  Water.  Your public water supply is now in private hands.  You're not paying water rates as a resident, you're paying bills as a customer.  Does the water come from a different reservoir?  Is it better value for money?  Does a pretty logo on the paper make the water taste nicer or the staff more positive towards you?

Now take Tesaldison's.  They treat you as a customer.  You have choice.  You could shop in Lidlasdabury's.   Well, you could if there was one in your town.  No, actually, it's ok, there's one a bus ride away.  Wow, look at the price savings!  1p off a loaf.  Your shopping basket costs £29 not £30.  Erm, wouldn't £20 be a fairer price?  But  no, they've got staff to pay decently.  Like hell they do.  But you've an illusion of real choice because you're the customer.

But actually, how much is it the choice you wanted anyway?  I mean, who cares which brand electricity or water or grocery supplier you have if you get fair prices from polite and efficient staff etc?

So I venture to suggest that no one will give a toss whether Maximus calls them a customer or a banana so long as what the word is shorthand for is treating them decently and with respect.

Let's take this a step further.  Why does customer niggle?  Yes, because it is a word that so very often means that we've been let down.  We had lots of promises that never materialised.  Consciously, customer means choice, unconsciously it means we didn't get what was promised.  Thus it can be a very unwise word to use unless you create other unconscious associations, hence the importance of brand names, logos, slogans etc. 

You go to Argos.  Let's suppose they sell what you want and so does another shop nearby.  Is it being a customer that draws you in or 30 day guarantee (or whatever they call it - no, I don't care what they call that, either, it's the 30 days I care about).

So I venture to suggest that whether Maximus calls people customers or anything else will be very subsidiary to its attitude.  Few people will give a toss, I think, what they are called if they are treated with respect, dignity, fairness etc. and if the brand name Maximus becomes associated with that.

If people are not treated well, then customer will have, as is now so often the case with other organisations, a connotation of broken promises.
Title: Re: Maximus and its New Approach is it better than ATOS
Post by: Dic Penderyn on 22 Jan 2015 12:13PM
So if someone calls a person a "N**g*er it's OK as long as their attitude is good and they are pleasant about it I think it matters a lot to people what they are called by others It's about a company such as Maximus's desire to define you by the language used to describe you plain and simple.
Title: Re: Maximus and its New Approach is it better than ATOS
Post by: Sunny Clouds on 22 Jan 2015 03:02PM
The word customer equivalent to the n-word?  Rubbish.  It's not an obscene word and it's used in many, many contexts as a positive word. 

Alternatives such as claimants are also disliked by some who might equate them to supplicants or who might see them as implying a significant possibility of lack of entitlement. 

I personally don't like claimant and someone else wouldn't like customer.  You can't please one without displeasing the other.  What you can do is to use the word customer in a positive way.

For Maximus to use a word used by HMRC, DVLA, public amenities such as art galleries, swimming pools etc. is not per se to define you in a way that is offensive.   Or do you spend your time writing  letters of complaint to other organisations providing public services that use the word customer?  "Dear Sir, I decline to submit my self assessment tax return or to pay any outstanding tax until you remove the term customer from your guidance."  "Dear Madam, I will no longer be getting my NHS-voucher funded glasses from you until you stop referring to  me as a customer."  "Dear Sirs, I have decided not to claim a government grant for upgrading my boiler as you have chosen to refer to me as a customer." "Dear Councillor, I should appreciate it if you would inform the relevant department that I shall not be using my dustbin until such time as they stop referring to me as a customer and shall instead be taking my rubbish directly to the council tip."

I am struggling to be restrained here.  You may not like the word customer, and you may not consider it to be the best one to use here for a variety of reasons, but it is not, and never has been, a word in the same sort of linguistic categories as the n-word.  Further, I take exception to your use of the analogy in a "so..." phrase that implies that you are summarising what I have said.  I have not implied that using a word of the nature of the n-word would be acceptable. 

Perhaps you'd like a big campaign against the use of the word customer.  What word do you want them to use instead?  I am not saying there are no other words they could use.  I think that client can work quite nicely, but that's my professional background speaking and I've lost count of the number of times I've been to public meetings when people have been up in arms at being called a client, stridently protesting that prostitutes have clients.

You could go out and picket a Maximus building, holding aloft a placard demanding the word you prefer be used.  Don't count on no one else going out there with a bigger placard objecting to the word you prefer.

Customer isn't a derogatory word per se.  It isn't like calling someone a scrounger or a timewaster etc.  It only becomes a problem if you cease to meet the expectations it raises.
Title: Re: Maximus and its New Approach is it better than ATOS
Post by: Dic Penderyn on 22 Jan 2015 03:54PM
If you don't mind Maximus and their new PR expert defining you that's OK I could have defined what you said as semantic rubbish but I refrained from doing so please do me the same courtesy.

Language is the engine of thought the meaning of the words used is important that's why we don't talk of the disabled  it's about perception how we perceive how others perceive us and how we perceive how others think of us. If you are a customer then somebody is providing something you need or require I neither need or require anything from this company or it's employees as with Atos before them we will not be customers we will be victims.
 
Title: Re: Maximus and its New Approach is it better than ATOS
Post by: Offworld on 22 Jan 2015 04:03PM
>confused<

Have innocent people in Pakistan been the "customers", the "clients", or the "targets" and "victims" of US killer-drones?
Title: Re: Maximus and its New Approach is it better than ATOS
Post by: Sunny Clouds on 22 Jan 2015 04:09PM
I did not describe what you said as semantic rubbish and the issue of who defines us is very different from the issue of whether two words have the same register, of whether a word that is used on an everyday basis all around us as an acceptable term can be equated to a term that is so unacceptable that it is one of the few words in the English language that is very rarely written out in full.

As for whether you need or require anything from Maximus, if you're not claiming ESA, then you don't need or require anything from them, but if you claim ESA and the relevant DWP decision maker refers your case to them for a WCA, then if you want your ESA, you do need something from them, namely a fair assessment.

I appreciate the feelings behind your use of the word victim, but Maximus is scarcely likely to use a word of that sort, so then the question is what alternative word there is?  I struggle to think of one that isn't loaded in a way such that there would be substantial opposition from one quarter or another.
Title: Re: Maximus and its New Approach is it better than ATOS
Post by: Sunny Clouds on 22 Jan 2015 04:12PM
Offworld, it depends on your perspective, however you wouldn't realistically expect those using the drones to use terms such as victims, so probably the best you could expect as an agreed term (as opposed to one used when expressing feelings) is target, because it accurately describes the physical and political process.  (E.g. target of weapon/attack, target of bad/good policies.)
Title: Re: Maximus and its New Approach is it better than ATOS
Post by: DeusExMacintosh on 22 Jan 2015 05:29PM
Is it just me? My first thought when I read Sue's job title was "she's improving the experience of the DWP?" because THEY are the customers of Maximus rather than claimants.
Title: Re: Maximus and its New Approach is it better than ATOS
Post by: Dic Penderyn on 22 Jan 2015 06:54PM
Ok Sunny but I think DeusExMacintosh has the right word it is after all what we are Claimants and the service they will provide is for the DWP not us.
Title: Re: Maximus and its New Approach is it better than ATOS
Post by: Sunny Clouds on 22 Jan 2015 07:07PM
Yes, I think he has put his finger on the technical/contractual arrangement and we can all agree on that, I think.

What I think we can also all agree on is that whatever Maximus calls us whether we're people trying to get what we're entitled to or people helping others trying to get what they're entitled to, we're going to be highly suspicious about its attitudes towards us.

What they call us shouldn't be a big deal.  If we were confident of being treated fairly and respectfully, if they chose what we thought was the wrong word, that would be secondary (which doesn't mean that I disagree with you about the word used needing to be appropriate); but the fact that that people that have strong views about these things like you and me get, if you'll forgive my putting it this way, het up about this, shows that we don't expect to be treated well, that we do expect the sort of hostile attitude that would be expressed by a word like the n-word.

I wish I believed that Maximus will behave more decently than I think Atos has.  I don't. I hope I'll be proved wrong.
Title: Re: Maximus and its New Approach is it better than ATOS
Post by: Dic Penderyn on 22 Jan 2015 07:32PM
So do I Sunny so do I.