The Government will tell you that it has reviewed the WCA and implemented all the suggestions made by Professor Harrington. However, a new report, The People's Review of the Work Capability Assessment has some very worrying indications of some harsh treatment at the assessment, bureaucratic incompetence and very poor decisions. On top of that, there seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding of mental health conditions and fluctuating conditions.
I would strongly recommend that you read some of the actual documented experience. Don't be put off by some of the emotive language in the introduction, which I feel goes a bit far. Read the actual referenced accounts of what happens.
A few examples to be going along with:
- Man sent ATOS assessment form. He's in a coma. His wife tells DWP and is told to get letter from hospital and send it to ATOS. She does. They don't record it and he loses his benefit. Surely the wief had enough to be going on with a sick husband.
- Man given appointment for a Sunday. He turns up and this is verified by a health professional. He then gets his benefit stopped for failing to appear on the right day.
- Terminally ill person with brain tumour told they could work for a specified period which was the same as their expected life span
- People being prevented from taking notes at their assessment on pain of being marked as being non compliant and losing benefit
- Someone had a panic attack during their assessment and was told to "stop messing about."
- Someone severely disabled, tube fed, blind, deaf, who suffers frequent seizures, requiring 24 hour care being told they are fit to work.
- Someone with a mental age of 7 being marked fit for work
- Same assessor medically retiring someone from their employer then awarding them no points for ESA
This is just scratching the surface of what's in this report.
Every single Liberal Democrat MP needs to read this to see how bad some people's experiences have been. Please send them the link to the report and ask that they read it. If they don't have time to read the whole thing can I suggest that pages 7-9 and page 28 will give them an insight into the reality of life - and death - under this system.
Reading it makes me think there is a good case for every assessment to be recorded and for there to be much more intense scrutiny of how the system operates. Apparently Professor Harrington only visited Benefit Delivery Centres, not the actual assessment centres.
It makes me furious that sick and vulnerable people are being treated like this. Any one failure is unacceptable, but there is clearly something intrinsically wrong with the way the Work Capability Assessment works. The Government needs to ensure that it reflects the realities of illness and the expectations of the workplace. If someone isn't fit enough to hold down a job, they have no chance in the labour market.
What we also need to do is make sure any examples of failures we come across are passed on to our MPs. The more evidence we can collect, the better. We can't simply stand by and watch the systematic failure of the sick.