Professor Harrington'​s third and final independent review of the work capability assessment (WCA) disappointingly concentrates on the need to complete recommendations made in the year one and year two reviews rather than introducing any new proposals for change. In fact Harrington confirms that the WCA “​remains a valid concept for assessing benefit claimants’​ eligibility for employment and support allowance (ESA)”​.

He states that “​real progress has been made”​ in implementing the year one and year two recommendations but qualifies this belief with concern about the pace and scope of change:

“​... the pace and scope of the improvements has been slower than the Review would have hoped. The direction is the right one although the goals have not yet been reached.”​

Harrington states he has deliberately made fewer recommendations in his final review in light of “​positive progress”​ made. He concludes:

“​Consolidation and monitoring are the vital next stages: at this stage there is no evidence for a further period of radical reform.”​

The main findings of the review include the need to improve communication with claimants;​ to improve communication within the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP);​ and to improve face-to-face assessments.

Other areas highlighted by Harrington relate to establishing “​quality”​ dialogue between the DWP and first-tier tribunals;​ making decision-makers central to the assessment process and “​providing them with all the further documentary evidence they need to get the decision ‘​right first time’​”​; the need for continued monitoring of changes to the WCA;​ and finally completion of the work underway on the descriptors.

Individual responses to the call for evidence seem to have been treated with some indifference by Harrington on the basis that respondents “​cannot be considered a truly representative claimant sample”​. He does go on to conclude that there remain some concerning accounts of individual experiences, describing the “​frequency and consistency of these reports”​ as “​worrying​”​.

With regard to Atos Harrington recommends that future reviews “​should further explore the quality of the outcomes rather than simply on the quantity of the training offered”​.

He concludes that “​Whilst Atos have developed an impressive list of training materials for their healthcare professionals and their trainers, the Review has seen little evidence to show the effectiveness of these courses in either driving up the quality of assessments or improving the skills and knowledge base of the attendees.”​

Overall Harrington’​s final review of the WCA is lacking in substance, force and conviction. There is little evidence to support the claims made that things are slowly improving and the review again fails to adequately address the profound and deep-seated flaws embedded in the assessment process for ESA.

The full Review can be found here.


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