Professor Harrington today published his third independent review of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). The aim of the review is to recommend ways to improve the process to make it more ‘caring and humane’ for people claiming ESA.
The review highlights that:
- Some progress has been made but the pace and scope of improvements has been slower than the review would have liked.
- Major charities say that although there has been some change for the better, it is disappointingly incomplete in coverage and depth.
- Decision makers should actively consider the need to seek further evidence in every case. The final decision must be justified if this is not done.
- Work is underway for a formal review of new proposals from a number of charities to improve the criteria for the assessment.
- While there is firm evidence of change for the better in the way DWP has accepted the challenge to improve the process, less evidence exists to show that Atos have done all they can to improve their part of the WCA.
- The DWP should monitor Atos performance more closely.
Claire Nurden, DBC Co-Chair, said:
“The WCA is still not fit for purpose and the recommendations made by the review don’t go far enough to solve the problems in the assessment process.
“Recommendations for Decision Makers to place more emphasis on written evidence are welcome but need to be stronger. Evidence must be gathered as early as possible in the process and both Atos assessors and Decision Makers should be compelled to consider it. Calls for the DWP to better monitor the performance of Atos also fall short – we’d like to see the Department impose financial penalties for poor performance.
“Too many disabled people still tell us of poor and stressful experiences of the WCA. It is vital that next year’s review covers the quality of face to face assessments, and how often people are called back in for review”.