The Benefit System, Work Capability Assessment

GPs vote against the Work Capability Assessment

GPs vote against the Work Capability Assessment

GPs have voted unanimously in favour of scrapping the work capability assessment (WCA).

At the annual GPs’ conference in Liverpool, doctors backed a motion stating that the computer-based assessments were “inadequate” and “have little regard to the nature or complexity of the needs of long-term sick and disabled persons”. They called for the tests to be replaced with a more “rigorous and safe system”.

The vote at their annual conference in Liverpool reflects rising concern within the medical profession over the government’s use of the work capability assessment (WCA) to reassess recipients of the outgoing Incapacity Benefit to determine whether they should receive the replacement benefit, Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

The test was introduced in 2008 and around 40% of appeals are successful as recipients have been found to be NOT fit for work. The assessment, carried out by Atos Healthcare is proving to be an Achilles heal in the governments welfare reform agenda

The chair of the BMA’s GPs’ committee, said: ”

When 40% of appeals against the assessments are successful at tribunal hearings, something is clearly very wrong with the system. GPs are seeing too many patients who genuinely need to be on incapacity benefit coming in very concerned and confused by the system.

The government needs to look again at the whole assessment process and replace it with one that is fit for purpose.”

The Scottish general practitioners’ committee, has already passed a similar motion,

Labour MP Tom Greatrex, who has raised a number of concerns about the WCA, said: “The government should not dismiss the strength of feeling being expressed by the medical profession in this motion – the very people the DWP are reliant on to carry out the assessment.
“As the motion reflects, assessing whether people are able to work is right in principle, but in so many respects the practice has been appalling. Thousands of people have suffered because of the decisions Atos get wrong time and again, costing the public purse millions.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said improvements were being made to the system.

Calling for the WCA to be scrapped is now the policy of the BMA GPs’ committee, which represents 44,000 family doctors across the UK.

yesMinister comment
The public cannot have it both ways. On one hand there is a national feeling that many people are playing the system and that these people are making it worse for the rest of us and are partly to blame for increases in our taxes.
But the issue is more complex: even if 80% of the 2.5 million IB claimants we’re assessed as fit for work and placed on ESA or JSA, this would have no real affect on the level of taxation we pay.

Secondly, the level of error and fraud in the system will negate any savings found from pushing the -notional – 80% onto JSA.

Thirdly, the large number of redundancies has left the department with insufficient staff to chase up errors or fraudulent claims. If the department is serious about reducing fraud and error it needs more resources.

Most people believe that the last government failed terribly in this area.
Most people agree with the coalition governments stance but they just want the government to approach it slightly differently.

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