Following news that 32% of new claimants for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) were deemed as fit for work between October 2008 and March 2013, high profile disability groups have renewed their criticism of the assessments. More than a million others withdrew their claims before a face-to-face assessment because they had either returned to work or claimed a benefit more appropriate to their situation.
Philip Connolly, the policy manager for Disability Rights UK, said: “They are finding people fit for work when they aren’t and they are not even giving them the support they need to get a job. It is a disgrace. Richard Hawkes, the chief executive of the disability charity Scope, called for a more holistic assessment to meet the challenges of disabled people getting into the workplace, stating that “The fit-for-work results are only half the story. We should be talking about getting a million more disabled people into work.
Pete from PSI: The third sector has been a vocal critic of the WCA process, arguing that the ‘cold’ nature of such an arbitrary test does not take into account the full range of issues suffered by ESA claimant, and that therefore the WCA is not fit for purpose. The Government has committed itself to improving the outcomes to the WCA, and last year announced that it would bring in more suppliers to undertake the test, following an internal audit of Atos’ assessment process which found that the company had not been meeting the expected performance standards associated with its contract with the DWP.
Whilst condemned by the Government for criticising a test which it introduced in the first place, the Labour Party is committed to a complete overhaul of the WCA, including replacing the assessment with a more holistic approach and bringing the test back in house.