24 November 2011
The second independent review of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), now published by Professor Harrington, endorses recommendations on fluctuating conditions made by charities including Forward ME.
Although not yet mentioning fluctuating conditions in particular, employment minister Chris Grayling has welcomed the report in general terms in a press release.
The year two Review says:
“The year one Review recognised the potential problems associated with assessing fluctuating conditions, particularly the repeatability of tasks, pain and fatigue and the view that the WCA provides a ‘snapshot’ assessment rather than taking a longer-term view of the condition and its impact on the individual.10 As a result, the year one Review proposed that the descriptors used to assess fluctuating conditions were considered in more detail this year.
“In January 2011 a group led by the MS Society and also containing Arthritis Care, Crohn’s and Colitis UK, Forward ME, the National AIDS Trust and Parkinson’s UK were asked to provide recommendations on refining the approach used to assess fluctuating conditions in the WCA.
“They presented initial recommendations to an independent Scrutiny Group in April 2011.
“In November 2011 the Scrutiny Group and representative groups made joint recommendations to the Review.
- concluded that the descriptors need to be multi-dimensional, in particular taking into account frequency, severity and duration of symptom or symptoms
- suggested that the descriptors should be clearly worded so that it is clear each activity must be able to be completed ‘reliably, repeatedly and safely’ and, as appropriate, ‘within a reasonable amount of time’
- attempted to include more work-related activities within the descriptors to give them more of a work focus
- proposed more consistent use of the non-functional descriptor by Decision Makers.
“After considering these recommendations the Review was able to endorse them and submitted them to DWP later in November 2011.
“In doing so there was a recognition that, as there had not been enough time since the implementation of the March 2011 descriptors to develop a strong evidence base about their effectiveness there was a need to work with the Department to do so. Similarly, as they followed a similar model to the recommendations made for the mental, intellectual and cognitive descriptors, they would also potentially add to the complexity of the assessment.
“The recommendations from the representative groups and Scrutiny Group also suggested further work may be needed as part of future Independent Reviews on the specific wording of the sensory descriptors and that there may be a need to consider an additional descriptor which addresses the impact of generalised pain and/or fatigue. These issues will be considered in more detail early next year.
“Whilst DWP have not yet had time to consider the recommendations, the Review believes that there would be real value in this work joining up with the work which is being explored for the mental, intellectual and cognitive descriptors to build a suitable evidence base. The Review looks forward to the Department’s response in due course.”
Further comment to follow.
Read Action for M.E.'s earlier response to Professor Harrington's second year review.