Yesterday the Government published their response to the Work and Pensions Select Committee’s damning report into Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and the Work Capability Assessment (WCA). The response makes for disappointing reading for those who had hoped that the committee’s series of strong recommendation would finally make DWP sit up and take notice of the walking disaster that is the WCA.
The main thread that runs through the response is a refusal to acknowledge the true extent of the WCAs failure. Indeed in response to the committee’s call for a fundamental redesign of the WCA they say that ‘…the Department does not agree that the WCA is a flawed mechanism for assessing a person’s functional capacity’.
DWP point to the successive independent reviews and claim the fact that they have introduced 60 of the 83 accepted recommendations show the WCA is improving and is not in need of a redesign. But when Professor Michael Harrington, author of the first three reviews, gave evidence to the committee he felt that despite his recommendations the WCA had not fundamentally improved. This is the continuing experience of our clients too.
Of course one might expect the department to stick to its guns and reject the need for redesign but to other key recommendations are also dismissed. For example the call to pay claimants assessment rate ESA while undergoing Mandatory Reconsideration rather than forcing them to apply for JSA is apparently unworkable as there is ‘no legal basis’ to do so. Perhaps the Government has forgotten that they have the power to change the law!
Also published on the same day was the fifth and final independent review of the WCA. Telling the review notes that:
‘…despite these changes and some undoubted improvements, there remains an overwhelming negative perception of the WCA’s effectiveness amongst people undergoing an assessment and individuals or organisations providing support to them.’
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