Second review of WCA

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Second review of WCA

– improved but no radical change

29/11/2011

The second review of the Work Capability Assessment, (WCA) has been completed and although the review does make recommendations to improve the process, the assessment has not been radically over hauled and remains essentially a medically based, mechanistic assessment.

In brief Professor Harrington’s recommendations include:

  • Better communications and sharing of information between all parts of the system; particularly decision makers and DWP personal advisors are to improve communication so the reasons for reaching a decision and what that decision actually means is clear.
  • Increasing and improving the transparency of the assessment: DWP and Atos to engage with representative groups and their clinical advisers to ensure that decision maker and healthcare professional guidance used during the WCA process is up-to-date and clinically sound.
  • Ensuring quality decisions are made: Regular audit of decision maker’s performance is needed to ensure they making consistent, robust and evidence-based decisions.
  • Monitor the impact of recommendations from the Independent Reviews: To help ensure, and provide evidence, that the changes are having the desired impact.

Mental health descriptors: Mental and behavioural disorders make up the largest group of ESA claimants therefore it is concerning that the descriptors remain unchanged to date. However, representative groups such as Mind, Mencap and the National Autistic Society are currently working to improve the ESA50 and to consider changes to specific words or language used in the current descriptors. Recommendations to improve the descriptors for those with fluctuating conditions have yet to be considered by the DWP.

Inclusion London is disappointed that Professor Harrington was not able to examine what happens to people placed in ‘the three groups (support, work related activity and fit for work), and to people who do not complete their face-to-face assessment having made a claim for Employment Seekers Allowance’, as he originally indicated at the time of the call for evidence’.[1] This research may well have shown the devastating impact of the policy to reassess all those on Incapacity Benefit using the WCA, as well as the difficulties caused by the cut off of contribution based Employment Seekers Allowance after one year.

More information on the Work Capability Assessment independent review – year two is available at: www.dwp.gov.uk/policy/welfare-reform/employment-and-support/wca-independent-review/

[1] www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/wca-call-for-evidence.pdf

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