Friday, December 13, 2013

Did Government misrepresent Professor Harrington's view on Employment and Support Allowance rollout?

I've written many times about the problems with the Government's Work Capability Assessment, the tool, implemented by ATOS, used to decide who qualifies for Employment and Support Allowance.

The WCA was first introduced by Labour for new ESA claimants in 2008 and its flaws were immediately clear. It took no account of fluctuating conditions or mental health conditions and even after reviews still bore little resemblance to assessing someone's actual fitness for work.

The Coalition had everyone who was claiming the old Incapacity Assessment put through the Work Capability Assessment. This has led to some really quite appalling decisions. I'm sure many of you will have your own examples, but one which was cited to me was of a man with severe agoraphobia, who hadn't left his home in quarter of a century being pronounced fit for work.

The Government has set great store in claiming that it's been following the recommendations of former independent reviewer Professor Malcolm Harrington. Prominent welfare campaigner Sue Marsh could never understand why Harrington had agreed to a system that he found to be flawed to be rolled out to assess the most complex cases before the changes were implemented. So she decided to do find out - by asking him.

Her post here on her Diary of a Benefit Scrounger blog contains, shall we say, inconsistencies between what Tory minister told the Commons in February 2012 and what Harrington told Sue just recently. Have a read and judge for yourself.

If that's the case, then it makes me even angrier than I was already about the treatment of our most vulnerable sick and disabled people. I know of one friend whose benefit was stopped as they had had ESA for more than a year and was told they were fit for work. It was patently clear that they were not. Over a year on, a subsequent ATOS medical has decided that they should be in the support group. Ok, so they made the right decision, but my friend doesn't get that year of poverty and stress back.

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