Rights and wrongs in Litchfield's Work Capability Assessment review

By Sue Marsh
December 13, 2013

On 12 December 2013 Paul Litchfield finally released his Year Four report on the operation of the government's Work Capability Assessment (WCA) system.

There are some good recommendations in it: He suggests setting minimum times for reassessment after a successful appeal (six months). He concludes that the process needs to be simpler and take less time. He finds that both those attempting to claim and the public have little faith in the system. He suggests people should be treated with much more dignity and compassion.

There are many other recommendations, quite a number of which of which echo calls campaigners have been making for some time.

However, do these recommendations actually matter?

Professor Malcolm Harrington, Litchfield's predecessor, completed three previous reviews, but the some of us from the Spartacus network of independent disability researchers and activists wondered just how many of his original 25 recommendations had actually been rolled out successfully.

In Litchfield's report he claims: "Of Professor Harrington's 49 recommendations, the Department accepted 35 in full and 10 more in principle. Of those accepted in full, 29 have been fully implemented, three have been partially implemented and three are in progress. Of those accepted in principle, five appear to have been fully implemented, two partially implemented and three are in progress."

We disagree with his analysis completely on this point. In our latest detailed report, Welfare that Works: Employment and Support Allowance(ESA), we chose to analyse the first 25 recommendations from the Year One Review, as we felt that any effects or progress would have had time to be implemented.

Of those 25 recommendations, we found that nearly two-thirds had not been implemented successfully or completely.

Independent reviews are supposed to be just that. It is hard to understand how our findings can be so very different to those of the Mr Litchfield. We think that he and the government owe an explanation.

* Welfare that Works: Employment and Support Allowance (ESA): http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/19670

* Litchfield Year Four WCA Review (*.PDF Adobe Acrobat document): https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/fil...

* People's review of the WCA: further evidence (Spartacus): http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/19621

* The original People's Review of the Work Capability Assessment (Spartacus): http://wearespartacus.org.uk/wca-report/

* Sue Marsh, 'How the government misled us over Employment and Support Allowance': http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/19669


© Sue Marsh contributed to the new Briefing on Employment and Support Allowance (Amendment) Regulations 2012 (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/ESAbriefing) as project leader. She was one the the authors of the original Spartacus report, 'Responsible Reform' (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/responsiblereformDLA), which exposed the lack of support and proper verification behind the replacement of Disability Living Allowance (DLA). She has lived with severe Crohn's Disease for nearly three decades, and campaigns to raise awareness of hidden disabilities and long term illness. She spoke on welfare reform at the 2012 Greenbelt Festival, as part of a Children's Society / Ekklesia panel, and has continued to research, lobby, advocate, broadcast and write on these vital issues. Her 'Diary of a Benefit Scrounger' blog, from which this post is adapted, can be found here: http://diaryofabenefitscrounger.blogspot.com/ Sue also writes for the Guardian's Comment-is-Free website: http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/marsh-sue Her Ekklesia blog is here: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/suemarsh

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