23 November 2010
Professor Malcolm Harrington’s independent review of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) was published by the Government today.
The report acknowledges that there is much criticism and anger towards the current system and says that Professor Harrington believes that much can be done to make it fairer.
Key findings are:
- Jobcentre Plus Decision Makers do not in practice make decisions, but instead typically ‘rubber stamp’ the advice provided through Atos Healthcare.
- Some conditions including fluctuating conditions are more difficult to assess than others.
- Communication between the different agencies involved is often fragmented and in some cases non-existent.
Key recommendations include:
- Building more empathy into the process
- Greater transparency of the Atos Healthcare Assessment.
- Better assessment of cognitive impairment.
- Empowering and investing in Decision Makers so that they are able to take the right decision, can gather and use additional information appropriately and speak to claimants to explain their decision.
- Better communication and feedback between Jobcentre Plus, Atos and the First-tier Tribunal to improve the quality of decision making on all sides.
The Government has also responded to the report, fully endorsing and accepting Professor Harrington suggestions.
Action for M.E. CEO, Sir Peter Spencer, says:
“It is encouraging that Professor Harrington has taken on board the points made by Action for M.E. and other charities that fluctuating conditions are more difficult to assess and are not being adequately measured by the Work Capability Assessment. Action for M.E. is in the process of analysing statistical evidence from nearly 200 people with M.E. that will help to inform Professor Harrington’s work plan for next year. However, the Government must not forget that many people with M.E. have been let down by the system in place and are suffering extreme hardship.
“Now that the failures within the system have been recognised, we are calling on the Government to place an exemption from the Work Capability Assessment, without penalty, for people with a diagnosis of moderate to severe M.E. until a fair system which does not place undue stress on the most vulnerable members of society can be put in place.”
Action for M.E. will continue to push for the recommendations of our response to the independent review to be followed through.
We wrote to Minister for Employment Chris Grayling today to press for the exemption described above and to make the following additional points in response to the Harrington report:
- Reports from treating physicians should be included in the additional evidence referred to in the report.
- The proposed investment in decision makers must include specialist M.E. training.
- In reviewing the descriptors as planned for year two, the amalgamation of the three activities of “memory and concentration”, “execution of tasks” and “initiating and sustaining action” should be revoked as they discriminate unfairly against people with M.E. who have generally been awarded points in all three areas under the previous scoring system.