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The fifth and final review of the work capability assessment (WCA) published yesterday, appears to conclude that the WCA is perceived as being so unfair that it cannot survive into the next decade. The report’s author, Dr Paul Litchfield, favours a period of stability for the present test whilst a completely different system is brought in to replace it by around 2020.

Past its prime
In his report, Dr Litchfield points out that the WCA has been in operation for six years and has been in a state of constant change throughout that period. And yet ‘despite these changes and some undoubted improvements, there remains an overwhelming negative perception of the WCA’s effectiveness amongst people undergoing an assessment and individuals or organisations providing support to them.’

The author questions ‘whether an assessment designed in the early part of this century will best meet society’s needs in its third decade.’

If a new test is designed, he goes on to say, ‘then sufficient time must be allowed and suitable expertise must be deployed to create and test a tool which is both robust and meets the requirement for perceived fairness. In the meantime, my counsel would be to let the current WCA have a period of stability – it is by no means perfect but there is no better replacement that can be pulled off the shelf.’

Sadly, for current claimants, this means at least another five years of unfair and ineffective assessments.

Support group mystery
Dr Litchfield also points out the increasing number of claimants being placed in the support group – up from 10% to 47% - and the fact that the most common justification for support group entry is now regulation 35 (2) (b): that there would be a risk of harm to the claimant or someone else if they were not placed in the support group.

In many cases the claimant has a mental health condition which is judged to mean that they may be at risk of harming themselves or others.

Litchfield goes on to point out, disapprovingly, that two thirds of the claimants who are placed in the support group because of regulation 35 are not subject to a face-to-face assessment, the recommendation is made on the papers only. Dr Litchfield comments that:

‘The Reviewer understands from personal clinical experience how difficult it is to arrive at a sound judgement in this type of situation and is surprised that so many colleagues feel able to offer a professional opinion without the benefit of a face-to-face assessment. This would appear to be an area that warrants early further investigation by the Department and its provider.’

The preponderance of paper-based recommendations could be due to the fact that they are quicker and cheaper than face to face assessments. It might be because many Atos health professionals do not have the experience and confidence in their skills to carry out face to face assessments of people with more severe mental health conditions. It might be due to prejudice. Or there may be some other explanation entirely.

Whatever the reason, Dr Litchfield’s comments are as close to open criticism of Atos as you are likely to find in any formal review of the WCA.

You can download the final independent review of the WCA from this link.

Comments  

+2 #5 Paul Richards 2014-12-04 20:23
Hi all,
Yes, I agree - changing it all now would most probably be a total lash up, with this Coalition-Gover nment spending yet more millions and millions of taxpayer's money and at the end of it all, probably achieving nothing - apart from putting even more continuous and unneccessary pressure on the 'genuine' sick and disabled people of Britain. And, if it was changed, it would no doubt, be done in such a way as to make it even more difficult to have a 'Reconsideratio n' or an Appeal - just to be more vindictive and to torture these poor unfortunate very ill people even more. What a rotten Government we have - they help the very rich, they help with Overseas Aid, they pay £55 million per day to the E.U. coffers - they trample down the sick and the poor and the very low/low-waged, they unnecessarily sanction people and drive them into the hands of pay-day lenders and send them to Trussell Trust foodbanks and they have no guilt about this at all - but what would you really expect ? they are, after all, only the very most priveledged Eton Boys!
Incidentally, it would also be very interesting to learn just how much Mr Litchfield was paid to come up with this latest 'report'!
+3 #4 kathy 2014-12-02 09:28
Quoting carruthers:
On thinking things over, I'm not sure the man isn't right. Do we really want the DWP to do a complete overhaul of ESA assessment just now? Would a "quick fix" be likely to improve things or make them worse? Or do we want another grand project started in the DWP - recollecting how well UC is going?

Suppose that we have, after the May GE, another government with the same attitude to welfare as this one - do we want IDS and Osborne designing a new test which might truly give them the "austerity" version they want - given that they are promising us "deeper cuts" and "harder choices"? (BTW betcha those will be choices made by them and cuts experienced by us.) Any new system now will be designed to give out less money - probably a lot less money - just more efficiently and with fewer opportunities for appeal.

The current system is giving us about half of all claimants going into the SG, many fewer F2F interviews and a suspension of the ridiculous re-assessing measures - while it lasts.

A new one would be worse, the politics guarantees that - be careful what you wish for ...
Agreed here. A prime example is PIP the austerity version of DLA, based on the ESA format. Designed to achieve a specified financial saving using can and can't do criteria as is ESA. For mobility, the goal posts are almost touching. The backlog from starting from scratch would be horrendous, as for PIP.
+3 #3 carruthers 2014-12-01 12:31
On thinking things over, I'm not sure the man isn't right. Do we really want the DWP to do a complete overhaul of ESA assessment just now? Would a "quick fix" be likely to improve things or make them worse? Or do we want another grand project started in the DWP - recollecting how well UC is going?

Suppose that we have, after the May GE, another government with the same attitude to welfare as this one - do we want IDS and Osborne designing a new test which might truly give them the "austerity" version they want - given that they are promising us "deeper cuts" and "harder choices"? (BTW betcha those will be choices made by them and cuts experienced by us.) Any new system now will be designed to give out less money - probably a lot less money - just more efficiently and with fewer opportunities for appeal.

The current system is giving us about half of all claimants going into the SG, many fewer F2F interviews and a suspension of the ridiculous re-assessing measures - while it lasts.

A new one would be worse, the politics guarantees that - be careful what you wish for ...
+2 #2 carruthers 2014-11-29 08:28
Quote:
Whatever the reason, Dr Litchfield’s comments are as close to open criticism of Atos as you are likely to find in any formal review of the WCA.
Never mind his criticism of the monkey - does he land enough blame on the organ grinder? WCA is the DWP's design.
+4 #1 taylor 2014-11-28 17:32
I suffer with mental health problems and I am subject to the WCAs. After nearly twenty five years, you would think it obvious that I suffer long term !

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