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The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has announced that new providers will be appointed to carry out the controversial Work Capability Assessment (WCA) after it found that reports compiled by Atos Healthcare were unacceptable.
An audit by the DWP found that over 40 per cent of written reports only achieved a ‘C’ grade which means they were of poor quality. As a result Atos Healthcare will lose their monopoly and will be required to retrain their staff.
"This DWP audit confirms our long-standing concerns around the poor quality of the WCA. We know that 40 per cent of those who are declared ‘fit for work’ appeal this decision and around 40 per cent of these appeals are successful. Too many people are being put through a stressful and lengthy process in order to get a fair outcome, causing much anxiety not to mention costing huge amounts of public money.
We welcome the retraining of Atos Healthcare staff and hope they use this opportunity to improve the quality of mental health training. Over a third of all assessments involve people who have applied primarily due to a mental health problem and many more applicants experience a mental health problem alongside other illnesses or disabilities, so it’s vital that Atos understand the impact living with a mental health problem can have on day to day life.
While we can see the advantage of having more than one assessment provider, the DWP needs to ensure people will receive the same assessment wherever they live and that all providers are properly held to account through both their contracts and consulting representative organisations such as Mind.
These steps alone are not enough to make the process fair and effective for people with mental health problems. We still need to see greater use of evidence from health and social care professionals who know the applicant best; applicants with mental health problems being assessed by people who have specific expertise in mental health; and changes to the assessment criteria to ensure mental health is properly taken into account."
For more information, please see the DWP press release.