UK Disabled People’s Council response to the WCA – some key points.

The UKDPC published their response to the Independent Review of the Work Capability Assessment yesterday. The WCA replaces the Personal Capability Assessment, which was used for Incapacity Benefit claimants. It is being used for all new claimants for Employment and Support Allowance, and will be used for the transfer of IB claimants onto ESA, starting next month in two areas, and across the country from the spring. It is also going to be used for the reassessment of all adult DLA claimants from 2013.

You can read the document in full by clicking the above link. It is very long however, so I’ve had a look at it to pull out a few particularly interesting points. If you can manage to read it all in full, then I would recommend it. I certainly hope it lands on IDS’s desk. It’s very clear from this response that the WCA is not working, especially for those with unseen or changeable conditions.

  • Particularly for fluctuating impairments some recognition of changes in someone’s condition should be built into the WCA and group assignment

  • Most of the functions measured in the WCA remain based entirely upon physical ability to carry out tasks such as being able to raise arms above shoulder height or lift items of a particular weight.

  • We have reservations that the problems many disabled people who have mental health conditions, neuro-diverse conditions or learning difficulties face will not be adequately identified within the WCA.

  • All cases regardless of how serious or progressive the disability will be assessed through the WCA in spite of adequate alternative documentary evidence. This suggests that expert evidence from the relevant medical professionals will be discounted during the questionnaire stage.

  • To be considered to have limited work capability requires the claimant to have one 15-point disability, or a range totaling above 15 points. The DMG does not provide the justification or reasoning for the assignation of scores to specific disabilities. Thus a number of issues with no direct comparison, either medically or in terms of work, are arbitrarily awarded the same score.

  • The scoring scheme seems weighted against claimants with various mental health problems in that the descriptors of limited work capability focus on the physical ability to accomplish a given task.

  • We are concerned that many disabled people may continue not be allocated to the correct group.

  • The work-related activity group suggest that there will be work-related activity available for its members.

  • The application of financial sanctions on benefits is an unfair outcome for those whose symptoms may change in severity over a very short period of time.

  • Most IB claimants will have a real illness or disability, even if the WCA “proves” that they are capable of work.

  • Between last October and December, 22,618 people consulted Citizens Advice offices about ESA, the vast majority of them with concerns about the work capability assessment

  • A House of Lords debate earlier this year noted that between April 2009 and March 2010 the ESA appeal number quadrupled to 46,500 in March 20101. A total of 126,800 appeals in one year which represents more than 37% of appeals for all benefits. Of equal concern is the fact that 40% of the decisions that people were fit for work were overturned, rising to 70% when people had representation.

  • That such a high proportion of appeals is successful is not only a worrying indicator that the WCA  is not working effectively, but also that the seriously ill, or less articulate who are less likely to appeal, may have genuine cases that do not reach appeal.

  • Concerns have been raised that the ‘health professionals’ who conduct these assessments are not necessarily medically qualified doctors and therefore may well lack the skills necessary to carry out such assessments.

  • From February it is planned to migrate 10,000 IB claimants a week using completely untested DWP software. This will be 75 times the number of claimants being assessed in the trial areas per week.

  • The leaked document further says that ‘The outcome of the reassessment process may ultimately affect customers claims for Disability Allowance’ yet does not enlarge on this statement in any way.

  • There are a number of examples where people have been found unfit for work by Atos’ workplace tests, and then found fit for work by the WCA, also undertaken by Atos.

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