Tom blogs about the ongoing review of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA).
The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) is the gateway to Employment and Support Allowance, the new incapacity benefit. Mind has campaigned strongly to reform this assessment process, as we do not feel it accurately picks up on mental health problems and their impact on the ability of an individual to work. This campaigning has included feeding into the current Independent Review of the system by Professor Harrington.
As part of Mind’s commitment to fighting to protect benefits for those who need them, and involving people with experience of mental distress in our work, we recently accompanied two representatives with experience of the WCA to a meeting with Professor Harrington. Mike and Naheen made valuable contributions to the meeting, which aided the process of Professor Harrington developing an accurate understanding of what was going wrong with the system. They've agreed to share some of their thoughts here.
"The meeting was very interesting and useful. I was very impressed by Professor Harrington’s deep understanding of the WCA process and his accurate analysis of what is wrong with it and what is needed to address these issues, which is an awful lot!
I am disgusted that people with very serious illness and disabilities, who are clearly not able to work, are passed as ‘fit to work’ by the WCA. I think it speaks volumes that on appeal 40% of their claims are allowed, which illustrates how pathetically poor the initial WCA is. This is in no one’s interest, as yet another layer of bureaucracy is needed to reassess the original claim, which is a needlessly costly waste of public money and a cause of great anxiety and stress to people, who often have to wait many months for their appeal to be heard. There has to be a better, more accurate and humane way than this chaotic shambles."
-Mike Bush, Retired Mental Health Social Worker
"There were many people at the meeting from both mental health and learning disability organisations, as well as people who have direct experience of the WCA. We had a chance to air our concerns about the problems we had prior to attending the WCA, i.e. the process of applying. We gave an account of the difficulties we suffered due to the lack of understanding by those who conducted the assessments. Finally, we concluded with how the process in general for applying for sickness benefits could be improved, as well as what could be done to aid a person’s recovery to wellbeing after they had either successfully or unsuccessfully applied for the WCA.
I was pleasantly surprised with how this seminar went as I felt as though we were all listened to and our contributions were highly valued and respected. I have no doubt that this review will push forward and do its utmost to highlight our concerns to those who have the power to improve the welfare system. However, with the spending review and major welfare cuts announced several days ago, I also hope this does not jeopardise or worsen the condition of so many welfare benefit claimants who have no idea how they will cope when their economic and welfare rights are further reduced."
-Naheen Ali, ESA Claimant
At Mind, we are hopeful that the Review will produce an insightful analysis of the current system and some practical recommendations for how it can improve. If this is the case, we will need our supporters to help us pressure the Government to take on these recommendations.
In the meantime, we will shortly be posting details of what the Comprehensive Spending Review announcements on welfare might mean for you, and how Mind will be responding, on our Benefits and welfare reform pages.
Tom Pollard, Policy and Campaigns Officer