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A Benefits and Work member has received an email this week from the central office of the Labour Party setting out ‘three crucial changes’ the party proposes to make to the way the work capability assessment (WCA) works. But how crucial are they really?

Our member emailed the Labour party on the subject of the WCA and forwarded us the email they eventually received in response.

Three problems
The email sets out what Labour see as the current problems with the WCA, whilst underlining that they believe that ‘a test will always be necessary’. The three main problems identified are:

That the WCA is ‘not integrated with employment support’ and so is not helping claimants back into work;

That the WCA ‘lacks credibility with disabled people, causing anxiety and stress’;

That the system is ‘riven with poor decision making’, leading to a ‘staggering 45 per cent of appeals against the test’ being upheld last year.

Critics may point out that not only did Labour devise and introduce the WCA, but also that the level of appeal success under Labour was very similar to what it is now.

Three changes
However, Labour have come up with ‘three crucial changes to the way that the test works’ that they will introduce if they get into power.

1 Labour will ‘start by transforming the way the WCA is designed to make it more effective at helping disabled people into work’. There are no details of what this transformation will involve, except that ‘disabled people would receive a copy of the assessor's report of how their health condition may affect their ability to work, and information about the support that is available in their local area to help them’.

2 Labour will also ‘continue to produce an independent review of the WCA’. In addition, they will ‘ask the Office for Disability Issues to support an independent scrutiny group of disabled people to work together with the independent reviewer to assess whether the test is being conducted in a fair and transparent way’. Labour says it will only ‘commit to responding to the recommendations of this report’, there is no undertaking to actually act on them.

3 Labour will introduce ‘penalties for poor performance by assessors, measured both on the number of times decisions are overturned by DWP decision makers, and the number of times they are overturned on appeal.’

Critics may argue that: offering unspecified changes to the WCA amounts to very little; that a group of disabled people put forward by, for example Disability Rights UK, may not command universal support, especially if there is only a commitment to ‘respond’ to recommendations, and that penalties that are hidden behind a cloak of ‘commercial confidentiality’ – as they undoubtedly will be – will offer no reassurance whatsoever.

But would Labour’s proposals be an improvement on what we have already? Tell us what you think in the comments section below and we’ll ask the Labour party for their response.

The full text
The full text of the email is reproduced below:

With Labour, disabled people would receive a copy of the assessor's report of how their health condition may affect their ability to work, and information about the support that is available in their local area to help them - a first vital step towards a more integrated system of support.

Labour believes that the Government must work to support people with disabilities fulfil their own ambitions to enter paid work. That’s also the best way to control the costs of social security within an overall cap on spending, and to make sure there is a system that supports those who need it, including those who may never be able to take up jobs.

When the last Labour Government introduced the Work Capability Assessment we wanted it to be part of a system that helped support more disabled people into work. We have always said that a test will always be necessary, but it is abundantly clear that at the moment the WCA is not working.

First, the test is not integrated with employment support, which may help explain why the Work Programme is performing so miserably for disabled people, with just five per cent helped into sustained jobs. Second, the test lacks credibility with disabled people, causing anxiety and stress. That is in part because of the third failure – a system that has been riven with poor decision making, causing hardship for disabled people, and huge costs to the public purse. Last year, a staggering 45 per cent of appeals against the test were upheld.

So a Labour government would make three crucial changes to the way that the test works. We will start by transforming the way the WCA is designed to make it more effective at helping disabled people into work. With Labour, disabled people would receive a copy of the assessor's report of how their health condition may affect their ability to work, and information about the support that is available in their local area to help them - a first vital step towards a more integrated system of support.

Secondly, we would continue to produce an independent review of the WCA, and ask the Office for Disability Issues to support an independent scrutiny group of disabled people to work together with the independent reviewer to assess whether the test is being conducted in a fair and transparent way. We will commit to responding to the recommendations of this report.

Finally, a Labour government will go further in ensuring that the assessments get it right first time. We would make sure that in the new system there would be clear penalties for poor performance by assessors, measured both on the number of times decisions are overturned by DWP decision makers, and the number of times they are overturned on appeal.

Disabled people have suffered for too long in a system that has too often been unfair, ineffective, and non-transparent. Labour will build a Britain that works for everyday people, save the NHS, and turning decisively away from a Tory government run for the privileged few. 

Comments  

#37 Chris M 2015-01-01 20:12
http://voteforpolicies.org.uk/ - UKIP not Tory? Odd that Tories defect to them, so. They are opportunists, definitely not for poor & working people.
+2 #36 Eve Davies 2014-11-21 18:58
The whole system is an absolute disgrace the way sick disabled and vulnerable people are being treated. What people seem to forget is the majority of these people who are being degraded and sent back to work will have paid into the tax system and yet they are treated like they are scrounging when all they are doing is claiming what they have paid into. Labour will need to seriously need to change this system and make sure people receive the respect they deserve what ever their status in society if they want my vote !!!!!!
#35 velvet 2014-11-21 17:35
OK I know people first reaction to this is going to be to shout me down in disbelief but I truly believe this is the way forward.

I see lots of people totally disillusioned with Labour who will never consider voting for them again - I strongly recommend they and everyone else reading look up UKIPs disability representative Star Etheridge and see what she and UKIP will do for the sick and disabled. Star is herself disabled and has herself experienced the nightmare that this system is and she is fighting it with everything she has got.

People believe UKIP is a throw off from the Tories - it is not. Their policies are not in full depth at the moment but will be release fully costed at the same time the other parties release theirs. UKIP will support the sick and disabled, get rid of the bedroom tax, and introduce fair systems.
+3 #34 barry78 2014-11-21 15:21
Still the same old junk of "helping you back into work" if I could work I'd still be there and know all about it so their idea of carrying on not giving you any money to get you into work won't work any more than the present idea of no money and you will work. They first need to get the healthy into work, to create more jobs, but they don't see that. The idea that the tribunal could tell you what work you can do is risible because they don't have the background in many areas of work to understand what is needed, sitting on your backside all day isn't what most jobs are about.
+2 #33 Stephen David Winder 2014-11-21 15:10
Labour haven't made any substantial promises for anything? They could do with stopping the TAX on ESA imposed by this Coalition when it replaced I.B. Even after the Rochester by election loss, they are still convinced a vote for UKIP will get them in power?? So any party that are content to get in Gov. by default need to be treated as "Suss". The whole lot are just a bunch of Liars who think they are in touch with the Majority of Citizens?? how wrong are they? Not being an advocate of UKIP myself, I just hope that they together with the Green Party, Independents etc. collect as many votes as Poss. to scare the pants of them ALL. WHO voted for Labour to become Conservatives part Du!?
+3 #32 jenny 2014-11-21 14:36
The Labour proposals will not help the sick at all, its same old political rubbish. If for instance it would help by if you were put into the work activity group, but had a prognosis of not fit to work for another two years, for example through spinal injuries, it does not make any sense then to have the job centre ringing you the naxt day and then sending you on a work programme or work activity when clearly you are not fit enough to do anything only to get sanctions. It would make more sense to not have to go to the job centre at all unless your prognosis was less than 3 months, maybe then you are fit enough to do a little something. Also this would save giving money to private companies. I always was a Labour voter but reading their proposals on things they are just another conservative branch and I would not vote them in.
+1 #31 Swelkie 2014-11-21 01:35
A pathetic indicator of how out of touch this party has become. Shameful bureaucratic newspeak glowing with neoliberal aphorisms. If you are disabled, forget this shower.
-3 #30 David 2014-11-21 00:45
Quote " Disabled people have suffered for too long in a system that has too often been unfair, ineffective, and non-transparent . Labour will build a Britain that works for everyday people, save the NHS, and turning decisively away from a Tory government run for the privileged few "

Hhappen we got the unions and labour out of the NHS and got some effective commercially aware companies in to do work inthe NHS

the wages bill might even go down and we'd get value for money

A point in question
A" Llady" in the diabetes eye clinic in the NHS hospital said wheni I asked her , " Why don't the NHS use computer checking to compare degeneration of the eye scans done on diabetic's by the NHS & use the local opticians like Spec-savers to take and send the scans for checking ? There is usually one in each small town so that would free up money & space in the NHS as well as making visits for the scans much easier for people as they are almost always much nearer than the hospitals ? ".

Her reply was " I've done enough time on the shop floor and in any case that would put me out of a job so don't go spreading that one round please.

That kind of sums up much of what is wrong in governance and the NHS .... little kingdoms being financed at th expense of the taxpayers in general and giving very poor service when it could be so very very different & much better .
+2 #29 David 2014-11-21 00:28
A sensible review and treat disable as humans if labour scraped in ?

Labour ,a brewery & a party come to mind . NFC ....they couldn't organise one if their lives depended upon it.

Politely put NFC means No Flaming Chance.

They originated the whole ill thought out debacle , set it raging & snapping on to disabled folk . All they do these days is try ( and usually fail ) to score brownie points in PMQ's.

Would I trust them ever , not likely . They seem to be professional politicians run by professional scribble serpents who have little grasp of what it means to be long term disabled after an active life .
God only knows how little they value someone who is born disabled or born incapable of any sort of sensible work.
+3 #28 hughmac 2014-11-20 21:45
The deathly silence from Labour while the Tory's implement Nazi like sanctions on the sick and disabled without fear or hindrance speaks volumes. A hatred of disabled people has been generated by the huge amount of negative articles in the Tory controlled media which sadly includes the BBC. Labour have lost the support of disabled people in the last few years because they are seen not to care one iota about this most vulnerable section of society who were once there natural supporters.
+3 #27 Frogman9 2014-11-20 17:44
As a life long Labour voter I want some answers before I vote for them again it's time we were heard .
+4 #26 Stephen David Winder 2014-11-20 17:34
Just a follow up on my previous comment. I was a Labour member,---no more! This NEW Labour is not true to it's origins, & is so Right of party it may as well be a vote for Tories. As stated the Green Party have taken over Labours traditional position, adopting many of "Old Labours" values. Although probably will not get enough votes for Power, I can see the wind being put up ALL other parties with the support the Green's may get?
These Draconian, unjust, discrimatory language used by the Coalition & Others towards the Disabled/Sick leave me cold.
+6 #25 Kate 2014-11-20 16:36
Labour have far too little to say about this that would persuade me they have a real commitment to the welfare of the sick and disabled or that they recognise fully the injustice and cruelty of the present system. I have always been a Labour voter. No more. The Green Party is beginning to look more attractive to me, despite the 'wasted' vote.
+2 #24 Frogman9 2014-11-20 16:10
Quite true if Labour did get in next year I doubt if they would reverse any of the current laws they would be blaming it all on the Tories for years to come.
+3 #23 Stephen David Winder 2014-11-20 15:55
I cannot for the life of me see How/Why labour have any interest in changing or altering very little with the WHOLE of the new Benefits System! The reason being should they gain power, ALL the negatives that go along with these Benefits will supply them with "Common's Ammunition" for years! I secretly believe that although introduced by this Coalition, they have done Labour the biggest favour of all in not having them do it!
One thing that Labour have NOT mentioned is how they will go about reversing the INJUSTICES created by this Gov. which leave Disabled people far worse off then ever.
The way they have NEVER voiced concerns over the "near Racist" descriptive words Politicians have labelled Disabled people.
Labour have NOT been seen to defend the Disabled against the whipped up descriptive usage of words such as "Scroungers" etc. used daily to brainwash the Public into thinking it's ok to abuse the Disabled verbally!
I do NOT consider Labour a party for the working class anymore. Ironically it is the GREEN party that have taken up the Issues that Labour once held.
All in all a vote for Labour is a vote for "Left Conservatism" at Best!
+2 #22 lochlisa 2014-11-20 15:34
"Labour believes that the Government must work to support people with disabilities fulfil their own ambitions to enter paid work. That’s also the best way to control the costs of social security within an overall cap on spending, and to make sure there is a system that supports those who need it, including those who may never be able to take up jobs."

4 separate consultants/spe cialists have told me that I will never be able to work in a 'normal' way ever again. However, the WCA test does not even begin to address my difficulties with my conditions, and even scored me 0 points initially, which was over turned at appeal instantly.

Why is there going to be continued waste of public money sending me for a WCA when 4 separate consultants/spe cialists have all reached the same conclusion?

Once again it is kicking the sick and disabled when they are down.
+4 #21 JayneL Linney 2014-11-20 13:44
No assessment by computer will ever be able to manage the complexities of living with a disability. There are few people who truly understand what it is like for any given individual, and this will have be learnt over a period of time and requires compassion and empathy, things an IT system can not offer.

The assessments have a primary purpose - to get disabled people into work, irrespective of the capacity of individuals; therefore they will continue to be totally inappropriate. The primary focus must be the needs of the individual recognising that it is society that disallows most people working , not the people themselves
+2 #20 kathy 2014-11-18 09:17
Quoting satmanbasil:
Labour will ‘start by transforming the way the WCA is designed to make it more effective at helping disabled people into work’. There are no details of what this transformation will involve, except that ‘disabled people would receive a copy of the assessor's report of how their health condition may affect their ability to work, and information about the support that is available in their local area to help them’

I think most disabled people have a clear idea of what they can and cannot do. and need only the support of the dwp to help them seek there goal. what we don't need is another layer of admin writing reports on us this is no more than another atos making an assessment which will probley be wrong. As for seeking employers to take on the long term sick and disable I suppose they will waste more public money throwing this at employers to tempt them to take someone on money that would be better spent trying to get 2 million able bodied people back into work first.

Agree absolutely here - and I fear that any report someone makes on how a disabled person's condition affects their ability to work who has no experience of that condition will only serve to make another ill informed decision that will cause the claimant more stress and anxiety detrimental to their health. It seems to me that this idea is merely adding credence that almost everyone is fit to work. I agree that money would be better spent on the able bodied, whereas employers might be encouraged to take on disabled people on minimum hours for full time vacancies in their own financial interests.
+5 #19 satmanbasil 2014-11-17 22:45
Labour will ‘start by transforming the way the WCA is designed to make it more effective at helping disabled people into work’. There are no details of what this transformation will involve, except that ‘disabled people would receive a copy of the assessor's report of how their health condition may affect their ability to work, and information about the support that is available in their local area to help them’

I think most disabled people have a clear idea of what they can and cannot do. and need only the support of the dwp to help them seek there goal. what we don't need is another layer of admin writing reports on us this is no more than another atos making an assessment which will probley be wrong. As for seeking employers to take on the long term sick and disable I suppose they will waste more public money throwing this at employers to tempt them to take someone on money that would be better spent trying to get 2 million able bodied people back into work first.
+3 #18 elaine 2014-11-16 18:30
[quote name="shimtoan some people, not all or many but some, were on IB for 10 years or more without a review even when they were perfectly fine and fit for work for 9 and a half of those. I know one example who had just moved over onto Pension Credit by the time I met them

So, disabled people calling other disabled people scroungers... and that helps us how, exactly?

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