Monday, November 12, 2012

The People's Review of the Work Capability Assessment - a catalogue of incompetence, inaccuracy and poor decisions

You will know that I have been pretty critical of the Work Capability Assessment. This is the tool by which sick and disabled claimants are assessed for entitlement to Employment and Support Allowance (the new name for Incapacity Benefit).

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.


Anonymous said...

Thank you Caron for publicising this Review. As you say, every Liberal Democrat should read it. I hope your readers WILL actually read it and pass it on to MP's and GP Surgeries.

The examples of the horrific way people are being treated are shocking. But in political terms the background - in section 4 on the seemingly dubious goings on behind the scenes is equally bad.

It makes for very disturbing reading - not only because of what is happening now, but because of it's implications for the future. Do we want to live in a civilised country? If so, this has to be stopped now before it becomes 'acceptable' and the beginning of a very slippery path downhill.

As Lord Patel said when speaking in parliament during the Welfare Reform Bill -

"I say that it is moral to look after those that are sick, vulnerable and poor... If we are going to rob the poor to pay the rich, then we enter into a different form of morality."

It is a long report but I urge you all to read it!!

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you have told people about this report. Part members need to know how the government are treating those who are ill or disabled and in need of support, despite the reassurances that it's all been improved. It clearly hasn't.

Have you noticed how the language used by politicians has changed? Now they are calling that support "state handouts". It used to be known as "social security".

See what they did there?

Using dehumanising language to desensitise people to the dreadful way they are treating those in need.

Using the "Scrounger" rhetoric to convince the public that every one who needs support in times of need is bad.

Pitting one group against the other - as in "deserving" and "undeserving Poor".

None of this is arbitrary.

We are Liberal Democrats remember.

We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals...We look forward to a world in which all people share the same basic rights...We reject all prejudice and discrimination based upon disability...and oppose all forms of entrenched privilege and inequality...We promote human rights and open government...We are committed to fight poverty, oppression, hunger, ignorance, disease and aggression wherever they occur.

Please also remember our members unanimously voted for Motion F6 at Conference last year and with the exception of one person voted unanimously for Motion F19 this year. This means both are now LD Policy. It is time that Nick Clegg and our LD MP's are held to account about this.

Anonymous said...

"Don't be put off by some of the emotive language in the introduction, which I feel goes a bit far."

REALLY? Is anything "too emotive" when talking about people's personal experience of a deeply unjust & punishing system?

Is it being "too emotive" to want to remember and pay respect to the human beings who have committed suicide or died in relation to this government sponsored assessment?

Is it "too emotive" for someone to want to dedicate the Review to those who have suffered? One of those who died was herself a very ill person who campaigned right up to her last days of life to raise awareness of this issue, as well as fighting her way through the massively back-logged appeal system to try and get the support she desperately needed.

Is it "too emotive" to want to point out the discrepancy between the politicians hollow promises and the reality which is shown in the examples of trauma, injustice, and death?

Is it "too emotive" to want people to know that -

84% of GPs say they have patients who have developed mental health problems due to the WCA.

more than 21% of GPs have patients who have had suicidal thoughts as a result of undergoing, or fear of undergoing, the Work Capability Assessment.

the DWP have given Jobcentre staff new guidelines on how to deal with suicide threats from claimants.

the BMA have voted unanimously to have the WCA replaced with a more humane assessment.

the RCN refused to accredit the training of Atos Nurse assessors.

the National Audit Office has found that an estimated 20,000 medical assessments delivered by Atos Healthcare in 2010-11 failed to meet professional standards.

Even the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee has said -

"People with disabilities must be able to access the benefits to which they are entitled. The department relies on medical assessments to make sure it awards the right benefits to the right people. Getting this wrong can have devastating impacts on individuals and their families."

I'm afraid I cannot agree with your view that it is "too emotive".

This is not just policy we're looking at, not just case studies or statistics - they are human beings, like you or me, your mum or brother or friend.

They deserve acknowledgement for what they have been put through. They deserve respect and they deserve to be remembered.


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