Independent reviewer of WCA said it was not fit for roll-out

When the Coalition government rolled ESA out nation-wide we were assured that ESA was fit for purpose, and that the independent reviewer (then Professor Harrington) had confirmed this. What we were told, by the then Employment Minister Mr Grayling, was that Professor Harrington had said, “I believe the system is in sufficient shape for you to proceed with incapacity benefit reassessment.”

But Sue Marsh, disability rights campaigner, was not convinced by this. In her own words, “Harrington was clearly an intelligent man who had made thoughtful and intelligent suggestions for improving the assessments. I could never understand why he agreed to put the most vulnerable claimants through a failing test.

So she decided to ask him.

And this is the response she got:

“To your question:

I NEVER—repeat–NEVER agreed to the IB migration. I would have preferred that it be delayed but by the time I said that, the political die had been cast.

I then said that I would review progress of that during my reviews.

The decision was political.

I could not influence it.

IS THAT CRYSTAL CLEAR?

Malcolm.”

As Sue said, I’d say that’s very clear. Professor Harrington did not agree to the roll-out of ESA to Incapacity Benefit claimants.

Just last week a report revealed that Atos assessors do, in practice, face targets to keep the percentage of claimants awarded ESA low. A judge ruled that the WCA discriminates against people with mental health conditions. Another judge ruled that a physiotherapist has no expertise to comment on the abilities of a person with mental health conditions. A study on the descriptors used for ESA found that alternative descriptors (albeit based on the flawed WCA model) resulted in more information being gathered, higher satisfaction from both the HCP and the claimant, and more claimants being found to have limited capability for work. The People’s Review of the Work Capability Assessment reports multiple evidence that ESA does not work, as does a related report, also by the Spartacus Network, on the failings of ESA.

ESA now faces massive backlogs for both the original assessment and then for appeal. Appeal success rates are rising, and currently stand at 42%. Just 25% of those told they are fit for work are in work 12-18 months later.

In the face of all this evidence, can the government really say that the Work Capability Assessment is working?