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Dr Paul Litchfield, appointed by the government to conduct the fourth annual independent review of the WCA, has published his report.

Taking over the reins from Professor Harrington, who conducted the first 3 of those reviews, he indicates that it took him some time to get to grips with the complexity of the benefits system, as well as that of the WCA itself. 

He describes the language used (with ease by those in DWP and trained advisers) as “impenetrable”, especially for those who are most vulnerable.

He raises concerns about the need for multiple handoffs (where a claim is passed between the DWP, Atos and potentially Work Programme Providers), which leave the process open to delay, expense and the potential for error.

His opinion is that the public and others view the system for assessments negatively, so it is important to introduce the concept of organisational fairness and by this, gain greater public satisfaction, not only for claimants, but for DWP staff and the taxpayer.

He promotes the concept of ensuring the test is applied in a just and objective way in order to gain the public’s trust.

Dr Litchfield highlighted two areas that he wished his critique of the system to focus on: why so many people have been transferred into the work-related activity group by DWP decision makers and; the difficulty in assessing the impact of impaired capability for those with mental health problems, which he believes is compounded by stigma still associated with such problems.
 
He states that he had hoped the evidence based review of the mental and cognitive descriptors would have been completed in time to inform him when reporting on this “neglected area of health”. Unfortunately it has not been available until after he had compiled his own report.

Another concern he raised was how he could conduct an unbiased appraisal of the implementation of almost all of the recommendations made by Professor Harrington over the previous 3 years. As so many other changes have taken place at the same time, he has found it difficult to disentangle the respective impacts.

In essence, he fully supports that good work is good for most people. The aim of a compassionate society, however, should be to create a system that helps people to achieve this following a period of incapacity for work. 

Read Dr Litchfield’s full report here

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