ATOS and DWP stand accused over flawed 'fit for work' assessments

In an important new paper from the Centre for Wefare Reform (http://www.centreforwelfarereform.org), leading independent disability campaigner Kaliya Franklin, part of the Spartacus network, carefully analyses how government policy has undermined the objectivity of the medical assessments on sick and disabled people used by the private medical firm ATOS.

While ATOS have been the primarily been blamed for the high numbers of successful appeals against their assessments, Ms Franklin explains that the real cause of the problem is more likely to lie in the system used by the DWP to manage its contract with ATOS.

CWS says of the paper, How Norms Become Targets: Investigating the real reason for the misery of ‘fit for work’ assessments: "There seems to be no evidence that the norms themselves are based on any empirical evidence as to the real impact of disability on someone's ability to work.

"The very low success rate in helping disabled people to find work suggests that these targets were artificially imposed by the DWP and serve only to save money by cutting the incomes of the poorest.

"Moreover, the process of setting norms and managing to those norms, further corrupts the assessment process and seems likely to have undermined its objectivity.

Today, it points out, this is a grave problem within the use of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) process which is used to restrict access to the Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and to assign people to either the 'Support Group' or 'Work Related Activity Group' (WRAG). Furthermore this norm-based methodology will damage any system of assessment in the future.

It should be a concern to all taxpayers, says the paper, that:
* Systems for the assessment of disability are being created that lack proper empirical foundations
* These systems are managed in such a way that their objectivity is likely to be undermined
* The process is becoming both more unfair, unreliable and expensive

Kaliya Franklin's research draws on a wide range of evidence, including comments from sources who prefer to remain anonymous. The fact that professionals need anonymity should be an additional cause of concern.

The paper coincides with the publication on 9 December 2013 of the Spartacus network's own report, People's review of the WCA: further evidence, which is also being made available by Ekklesia here: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/19621

* Read and download the full 'How Norms Become Targets' paper here (8.PDF Adobe Acrobat document): http://www.centreforwelfarereform.org/uploads/attachment/400/how-norms-b...

* Centre for Wefare Reform: http://www.centreforwelfarereform.org

* Spartacus network: http://wearespartacus.org.uk

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