People's review of the WCA: further evidence

Abstract

In November 2012 The People's Review of the Work Capability Assessment was published by the Spartacus network of disability researchers and campaigners.

This supplementary report, which Ekklesia is pleased to make available and endorse, contains further compelling evidence of the need for change.

After introducing the issues and the annual reviews of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), it documents the reality for those directly impacted: deaths and suicides; accounts from MPs and advisers; the direct experience of sick and disabled people; views expressed by medical and other professionals; opinions from public bodies,;views expressed by Church leaders; and views expressed by charities and Disabled People’s Organisations.

The report then looks at the policy context: the UK’s human rights obligations under UN conventions; monitoring of standards; the financial cost of the WCA; contractual and audit issues; work-related obligations and sanctions; training of WCA assessors; progress on the audio recording of assessments; the long-delayed 'Gold Standard' Evidence Based Review; the Court of Appeal ruling that the WCA is discriminatory; a final summary and conclusion. (72pp., PDF format)

BACKGROUND AND CONTENTS

In November 2012 The People's Review of the Work Capability Assessment was published by the Spartacus network of disability researchers and campaigners.

This supplementary report contains further compelling evidence of the need for change.

After introducing the issues and the annual reviews of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), it documents the reality for those directly impacted: deaths and suicides; accounts from MPs and advisers; the direct experience of sick and disabled people; views expressed by medical and other professionals; opinions from public bodies; views expressed by Church leaders; and views expressed by charities and Disabled People’s Organisations.

The report then looks at the policy context: the UK’s human rights obligations under UN conventions; monitoring of standards; the financial cost of the WCA; contractual and audit issues; work-related obligations and sanctions; training of WCA assessors; progress on the audio recording of assessments; the long-delayed 'Gold Standard' Evidence Based Review; the Court of Appeal ruling that the WCA is discriminatory; a final summary and conclusion.

PRINCIPAL ISSUES

The original The People's Review of the Work Capability Assessment (http://wearespartacus.org.uk/wca-report/) stated: “It is now widely accepted that the Work Capability Assessment is deeply flawed and is causing harm to many vulnerable people. Countless articles and reports have been written, statistics quoted, consultations, debates and discussions held, all to no avail. The WCA continues. The People's Review is presented in order to show the reality of going through the Work Capability Assessment for those who are living with sickness and disability every day.” (http://wearespartacus.org.uk/wca-report/)

The Review included the experiences of people who had been wrongly assessed, humiliated, badly treated and forced to go to tribunal to secure the benefits to which they are entitled by law, as well as press reports of some of the people who had died after being found fit for work, or whose suicide had been linked, at least in part, to the stress of a process which is essentially abusive, demeaning and not fit for purpose.

This second document highlights the continuing failures of the WCA and the Employment & Support Allowance system, a system which is supposed to support people who are too sick or disabled to work.

It includes the experiences of sick and disabled people going through the WCA process; advisers who assist people with their claims; press reports of WCA failings, of people dying and committing suicide and MPs’ accounts of desperate constituents approaching them for help. It also includes comments and quotes from the Government, the Upper Tribunal, professional bodies, medical organisations, individual medical professionals and the Church, and shows the high rate of successful appeals, the huge backlog of unheard appeals and the financial cost of a failing system.

Another year has passed and, despite the Government's promises, the evidence overwhelmingly shows that although, in principle, changes have been made and recommendations implemented, in practice most aspects of the WCA are still inept and damaging decisions are still being made.

The assessment process continues to cause stress, anxiety and far worse. The many harrowing accounts in “The Reality” section of this Review attest to the frightening
and inhumane treatment sick and disabled people are having to endure.

Given that both this government and the previous government have failed to provide and administer a fair and credible assessment for those who are sick and disabled, perhaps it is time to actively involve disabled people in designing a system which works.

CONCLUSION

The failings highlighted in this Review are shocking. This is not a party political issue, it is a humanitarian one.

The Government's Office for Disability Issues, which was set up to coordinate disability policy across government, states: “Co-production means working with disabled people as partners at a strategic level. We believe those affected by a service or a policy should be involved in designing it.

“The Disability Equality Duty says that public bodies must proactively ensure that disabled people are treated fairly by looking at the way policies and services are designed and delivered. The Duty is designed to ensure that public bodies think about disabled people’s requirements at the start of all their activities. ODI can help government departments to meet these legal requirements at any stage of policy development.”

For too long the Work Capability Assessment has caused untold damage to those going through it. It must be scrapped and redesigned now before more harm is done. Co-production in this policy area is essential and can only be of benefit; it would not only reduce the financial cost to the taxpayer but also the enormous human cost to those going through the process.

Read and download the full report (72 pages, *.PDF Adobe Acrobat document, 1.8Mb) here: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/files/peoples_review_of_the_wca_-_further_evid...

Co-published with acknowledgement and gratitude to Spartacus: Disabled people's views on welfare reform (http://wearespartacus.org.uk). This document is © Spartacus and the author.