As we report elsewhere today (12 November 2012), the WeAreSpartacus network of disabled people have today published a detailed and compelling 70-page People's Review of the Work Capability Assessment, which has taken some months of hard work under difficult circumstances to research and compile.
The new report gives a very different picture of the way government is treating disabled people from the reassuring noises made by Prime Minister David Cameron, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith, Minister for Disabled People Esther McVey, her predecessor Maria Miller, the Office for Disability Issues (ODI) within the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), or other official spokespersons.
The authors say: "Anticipating the publication of Professor Harrington’s third (and, for him, final) annual review of the Work Capability Assessment, the WeAreSpartacus group have published our own review, from the lived experience of the sick and disabled people going through it.
"The People’s Review of the Work Capability Assessment includes the experiences of more than 70 claimants who have been wrongly assessed, humiliated, badly treated and forced to go to tribunal to secure the benefits to which they are entitled under by law.
"The review also highlights press reports of some of the claimants who have died after being found fit for work or whose suicide has been linked, at least in part, to the stress of a process which is essentially abusive, demeaning and not fit for purpose.
"In the final section of the review, we examine what has been said about the WCA by the Government, MP’s, courts, professional bodies, medical organisations and individual medical professionals. This section includes full references, including replies to Freedom of Information requests, so readers can check the facts for themselves.
In July of this year, investigative journalism from Panorama and Dispatches exposed the suffering experienced by claimants of Employment Support Allowance (which replaces Incapacity Benefit) going through the WCA process.
"The documentaries also revealed something of what goes on behind the scenes at Atos Healthcare, who undertake the assessments on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions.
"MP’s have raised concerns about the experiences of their constituents; questions have been posed to ministers; debates have been held in the House of Commons; the British Medical Association, medical professional bodies and charities, both large and small, have condemned the process; the National Audit Office has highlighted the waste of money from unnecessary appeals; and disabled and sick people have been working continually under extraordinarily difficult circumstances to expose the suffering and hardship they’re experiencing.
"But still the process continues; neither the Department for Work and Pensions nor Atos Healthcare have been held to account.
"The People’s Review needs to be shared far and wide; it is a comprehensive analysis not only of people’s experience, but of the policies and activities behind the scenes which reveal the objective reality of an assessment process which needs a radical overhaul, for the sake of disabled and sick people – and for our country, which cannot afford to fund a broken system which costs much, much more than just money."
Supporters of the People's Review of the Work Capability Assessment are being urged to make it known and available through social media, including Twitter, using the hashtags #realWCA, #spartacus and #wearespartacus
Ekklesia was honoured to help publish the original Spartacus report, 'Responsible Reform' back in January 2012 (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/responsiblereformDLA ), and we are pleased to be able to offer support to the very necessary and damning People's Review of the Work Capability Assessment published today.
* The new report can be read and downloaded from: http://wearespartacus.org.uk/wca-report/ 
* On Ekklesia: 'Work Capability Assessment not fit for purpose, says new report': http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/17365 
* More background on the Spartacus Report and beyond: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/spartacusreport 
* We Are Spartacus: http://wearespartacus.org.uk/ 
* Shaping Our Lives - A National Network of Service Users and Disabled People: http://www.shapingourlives.org.uk/ 
Simon Barrow is co-director of the beliefs and values thinktank Ekklesia.