Same Circus, Different Clowns

This isn’t a post about our general election, though I suspect the headline might do for the possible result, which might be a marginal improvement on the equally likely Same Circus, Same Clowns but isn’t I feel going to change things a great deal. Of course I shall still go out to vote, though only to register my opinion, which I think is important to do, however impotent politically.

But as Maximus – Same Circus, Different Clowns makes clear, this was an event about a different company taking over the administration of Work Capability Assessments for sickness and disability benefits from Atos, who have been so hounded (and justifiably so) by protesters that they have thrown in the towel.

People didn’t protest because Atos were conducting the tests, but because the tests themselves, based on box-ticking computer questions are generally agreed to be woefully unfair and inadequate, and mainly because of the way that Atos pressured those largely unsuitably skilled people administrating them to do so in a way that was grossly unfair to claimants. It’s possible, though perhaps unlikely that Maximus will do the job better, though they will still presumably have the same financial incentive to fail as many people as possible. No fair system would pay more for failing more or set targets for the number to be failed.

Of course the tests should be scrapped, and replaced by assessments based on medical evidence provided by properly qualified people, and protests will continue until this happens, and this was just the first against the new administrators, Maximus, a US company with a UK office close to the Dept of Work and Pensions.

DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts) and other disabled groups represent people who have been hardest hit by the coalition government’s welfare reforms, with Minister Iain Duncan Smith cynically seeing them as an easy target. Events have proved him wrong; their disabilities have made them one of the toughest groups of protesters in the country, both on the streets and in the courts, where they have inflicted a number of defeats on the government – though the response has been largely for the DWP to ignore the verdicts.

DPAC are determined because so much is at stake for them – and many know friends who have committed suicide because of losing essential benefits or the continual harassment of regular incorrect assessments and appeals which eventually overturn these.  Their protests also rightly attract a great deal of public sympathy, not least among the police, who also fear the bad image that reports and photographs of them treating the disabled as they sometimes do the general population would give.

There is also a great reserve of often unused and under-appreciated talent among people with disabilities, some of which leads to their protests being more inventive and more visual than most. It’s always a pleasure to photograph their protests, and you are never quite sure what will happen, though it is likely that something interesting will. And the public appreciation of the poor deal they have had from the government does result in greater interest in the media – and my pictures of events involving the disabled have been more widely used than those of other protests.

It’s not everyday you get the opportunity to take a rather different image of Westminster Abbey complete with a flying pink pig, and I’m not sure I really made the most of it, though I tried a few times. You can read the account of the event and see more pictures at Maximus – Same Circus, Different Clowns.  As usual I was working with the Nikon D700 with 16-35mm f4 and the D800E with 18-105mm DX, as well as just a few frames with the 16mm fisheye on the D700. The top image in this post was made with the D800E, others all with the D700.


My London Diary : Buildings of London : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

To order prints or reproduce images



Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.