Apr 182014
 

We read with interest the piece in the Independent by Rachel Reeves and Kate Green regarding Labour’s response to the Work Capability Assessment [1]

Labour should realise that disabled people are deeply distrustful of any Labour reform of a Work Capability Assessment system, which Labour introduced in the Welfare Act of 2007 with the stated aim of removing 1 million claimants from the benefit system [3].

Our position has been and will be that the Work Capability Assessment is deeply flawed in its basic concept, not just in terms of the details of its delivery, and inclusion in the workplace for disabled people cannot simply be achieved by a ‘back to work’ test.

manifesto

In the Reclaiming Our Futures, Disabled People’s Manifesto [4], we state that a priority demand from government is that:

A comprehensive and strategic plan of action is developed with disabled people and our organisations to tackle the discrimination and exclusion disabled people face in work and employment including: increasing quality and range of personalised support available to disabled people, strengthening disabled employees rights and tackling employer discrimination and poor practice

Other key demands include that:

Economic productivity must not be the only measure of people’s worth and value, volunteering offers as much value to society as paid employment. While we recognise that volunteering can offer additional skills, it should not be the default option for disabled people because of our exclusion from paid work

There must be policy and media recognition that there will always be disabled people who are unable or too ill to work. These individuals must be supported by a publically funded system. They should not be penalised or demonised as they are currently.

For true inclusion in the workplace for disabled people a wider approach is necessary including but not limited to:

• Will Labour commit to the restoration of Disabled Student’s Allowance,
• Will Labour commit to the restoration of the Independent Living Fund,
• Will Labour commit to the extension of Access to Work (AtW) to include unpaid voluntary positions,
• Will Labour commit to the reversal of the reduction of people who currently receive DLA, but will not receive PIP and also lose their Motability access,
• Will Labour commit to the reinstatement of the requirement for councils to produce equality schemes on employment and access
• Will Labour commit to the provision of accessible transport.
• Will Labour commit to the reinstatement of “day one” protection from unfair dismissal in employment law
• Will Labour commit to the provision of Employment Tribunals enforcing mandatory organisation-wide measures on preventing disability discrimination
• Will Labour commit to the provision that all government contracts, at a national, regional and local level, are only awarded to companies that are fulfilling measurable equality targets for the employment of disabled people

(for further points see reference 2)

These currently are some of the barriers to inclusion in the workplace for disabled people, and they will not be fixed by simply amending the WCA. The issue must be seen within the context of the wider interconnected system of barriers in place. It must be seen in terms of what a large majority of disabled people have already identified as key problems.

In terms of inclusion we also need from Labour, a recognition that for many disabled people to be able to work there has to be a nationally transportable social care system with a guarantee that people would keep the same levels of funding wherever they needed to move to work.

We need recognition that there is an onus on government and employers to fully accept the spirit of the Equality Act 2010 [4] with its requirement to the opening of work opportunity to disabled people. Without this, no “fit for work test” aimed at cutting disability benefits will make any impact whatsoever on the numbers of disabled people who can attain and sustain employment.

We also need from Labour a stronger recognition that there are many disabled people who cannot enter the work place and should not have to live in fear of being pressured into doing so.

There is much that the article leaves out and that leaves us with a number of serious concerns and questions.

While we are not yet prepared to endorse in any way Labour’s new approach to the Work Capability Assessment, we do see the article by Rachel Reeves and Kate Green as a helpful starting point for discussions on the future of inclusion of disabled people, who want and are able to work, in the workplace and we would welcome an opportunity to meet with them and discuss this further. We would like meet with Kate Green and Rachel Reeves to ask the following questions:

1. Will Labour commit to stop spending public money on private
contractors and return any assessments of disabled people back to GPs
with medical evidence taken into account as well as give a commitment to
look at the barriers to work for disabled people who can and want to
work (in line with the social model of disability)?

2. Will Labour commit to a time and date to talk with DPAC, My Legal,
the Mental Health Resistance Network, Black Triangle, Deaf activists,
those with learning difficulties ( with an outreach of ½ a million
disabled people) to listen to the views of the largest network of grass
roots disabled people on the WCA and ESA?

3. If Labour are committed to scrapping the WCA when will Deaf and
disabled people, and those with mental health issues have sight of the
detail of any alternative Labour is proposing?

4. If Labour accepts the harm, devastation and premature deaths that have
been an outcome of the WCA why have they chosen to suspend their
prospective parliamentary candidate for St Austell and Newquay, Deborah
Hopkins for speaking out in public about the harm caused by the WCA.

5. Will Labour address the disproportionate harm that the WCA and
sanctions on ESA and JSA are causing to all disabled people, in
particular those with mental health issues and learning difficulties?

6. We along with many others insisted that a centralised Independent Living Fund
for Scotland be established and it has been done. They have also promised to re-open ILF to new users, with a commitment of additional funds and recognition of its importance to independent living and obligations to article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Why has the Labour
Party not promised to re-establish it south of the border?

Many of the Statements included in this response are taken from the UK Disabled Peoples’ Reclaiming our Futures Manifesto and are endorsed by a UK network of disabled people and Deaf and Disabled Peoples Organisations, including: ALLFIE, Inclusion London, Equal Lives, DPAC, Inclusion Scotland, Disability Wales and the TUC Disabled Workers Committee [2], who between them reach several million disabled voters.
References
1. How Labour would reform the Work Capability Assessment http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/how-labour-would-reform-the-work-capability-assessment-9265479.html
2. The Reclaiming Our Futures, Disabled People’s Manifesto http://disability-studies.leeds.ac.uk/files/library/UK-Disabled-People-s-Manifesto-Reclaiming-Our-Futures.pdf
3. The Green Paper: The new deal for welfare: Empowering people to work. 2006 http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http://dwp.gov.uk/docs/a-new-deal-for-welfare-empowering-people-to-work-full-document.pdf
4. Equality Act 2010 http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/contents

 

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  10 Responses to “DPAC Response to “How Labour would reform the Work Capability Assessment””

  1. Labour have accepted that they laid out the WCA and in fact started it.

    They have had five years to see how it has gone wrong.

    They have had five years to formulate a better system (if not return to the previous system)

    They have had five years to realise that the number of disabled claimants was at the right level.

    They need to promise now and loudly what they will do when elected and keep to it.

  2. The bottom line with the WCA is that it has resulted tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of unneccessary deaths, as well as turning the already challenging daily existence of millions more into a living hell. The WCA kills.

    And history will show that ESA/WRAG has also driven many more people off benefits into early graves than it ever found sustainable jobs for.

    Labour needs to pledge to END the murderous UNUM-led ‘work for all’ dogma, and stop the harrassment of those whose doctors have classified them as unfit for work. The sick and disabled must be guaranteed unconditional support for as long as their condition lasts, including indefinite awards for permanent or long-term conditions.

    The reasons for this will become obvious when the full horror of the Atos death-toll is eventually exposed, and the legal claims start piling up and then dragging on for as long as they have for Hillsborough.

    Atos and WCA were Iain Duncan Smith’s horror show, yet we are seeing increasing media gibes about how it was LABOUR which orginally introduced them. Labour needs to wash the taint of blood from its hands fast, and demonstrate some will and commitment to rebuilding the lives shattered by the carnage that has ripped through the disabled community.

  3. I feel that those who have ‘Indefinite’ DLA awards should have those honoured.

    Thinking about mental health, given 70% of working age service users are unemployed, to be realistic about this – voluntary work that people chose to do (or can undertake) must be an additional outcome to paid employment or being too sick to work at all. With such a high statistic, and the inflexibility and conditionality within the welfare system – this in no way supports inconsistent working ability, or not being able to work enough hours to claim WTC. Suggestions of JCP’s hassling part-time workers and those in receipt of HB will ensure that less people make the transfer into employment.

  4. While eligibility for support through the social security system for people with illnesses or disabilities remains predicated solely on whether an individual is deemed capable of doing some kind of work rather than what is in the best interests of the health and well-being of that person the system will fail those who need recourse to it.

    It is not the case that “Economic productivity must not be the only measure of people’s worth and value,” It should not be a measure at all. People, all people and not just those claiming disability or sickness benefits, are not units of economic production The qualifying criteria should be that a person has a diagnosed illness, medical condition or disability that in the opinion of the medical health professionals who have made that diagnosis would cause the person material difficulties or put them at a disadvantage in earning a living independently or that doing so would be detrimental to their health or well-being. While help should be available for those who feel they would like to find employment or take up a volunteering role this should be the decision of the individual and not a matter of coercion by the DWP.

    It should also be accepted that it is unrealistic to expect a large number of people will ever be able to find employment and for them support needs to be at a level which at least allows them to have some sort of life they can look forward to and not a subsistence existence of unremitting poverty and worry that even that minimal level of income will be taken away if the DWP decide thay failed their latest assessment.

    • Graham, your last paragraph is one I would like to see the Labour Party adopt, and accept in full. I’m fed up with them pandering to Right Wing ideas, and they are Right Wing – it is draconian to even think about leaving people with no income, never mind actually doing it. The Labour Party also need to do something about their 35 MPs (out of the total of 90) who hire staff for no wages, seemingly justifying it by giving them poxy expenses.You Labour MPs are worse then the Condem ones who do it, because it is supposedly in direct contradiction to your beliefs.

    • Well said.

      And I think that your final paragraph eloquently sums up what most of the convoluted human rights legislation regarding disability attempts to express.

  5. There is nothing about Labour’s response (as it appeared in the Independent) which convinces me they are genuinely committed to ensuring the process surrounding the assessment of Employment & Support Allowance claimants would be any fairer under their administration than under that of the Coalition.

    Their intended measures only go to show how they fail to understand that the only solution is to replace the WCA, they have suggested only token gestures of change and have expressed nothing new.

    Their measures and my views:

    “We’ll starting by transforming the way the WCA is designed to make it more effective at helping disabled people into work. The current system is a crude assessment of people’s impairment, with little information about how this affects their ability to work. With Labour disabled people would receive a copy of the assessor’s report of how their health condition may affect their ability to work, and information about the support that is available in their local area to help them. We think that’s a first vital step towards a more integrated system of support.”

    (1) It’s a mere mirror of the current rhetoric aimed exclusively at getting people in to work. Unless claimants have been magically cured of all ills and disabilities, there has to be an acceptance that some claimants will be unable to work.

    “The second change we’d make is to give disabled people a central role in monitoring the way the tests are run. This is absolutely vital. For the first time disabled people would get a real say in how the assessments are delivered.”

    (2) How would they guarantee a ‘central role’ – central to the assessment? or would it revolve around an unrepresentative ‘party’ which meets once every six months at Westminster and ticks all the right boxes and thus gives a false perception of participation in the decision -making process?

    Labour have to be bold enough to say what they mean.

    They and every MP in Westminster knows the WCA results are being used as a convenient political tool to vilify claimants as fakers and scroungers. The reality is millions have been tested, the numbers on the sick has hardly fallen and only a handful have been constructively helped in to work.

    The real results are kept a secret, yet they reveal the truth – the claimant is in the vast majority of cases entirely trustworthy in providing an account of their limitations. Labour need to say they will place an importance on listening to what the claimant says. We need to return to the days of trust, it is only the media which has convinced the ignorant as to doubts over the integrity of the sick and disabled. Every ESA claimant is signed off sick by their doctors, are we saying they are liars as well?

    “Finally a Labour government will go further in ensuring that the assessments get it right first time. Reporting on the WCA last year, the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee found that the targets set for the quality of the assessment weren’t challenging enough. ”

    (3) There is a complete lack of transparency over the inordinate number of decisions which the DWP are getting wrong, we’ve been hearing of the importance of ‘getting it right first time’ ever since the WCA was first introduced and yet today we continue to hear more and more horror stories of how badly Atos, Capita and the DWP goes about its assessment & decision making. over 1 million people have appealed the WCA and an undisclosed number have lodged internal requests with the DWP for reconsiderations. The starting point is to get to the bottom of the true number of incorrect first decisions, it is only once this has been established that you can start the process of assessing whether poor quality decision – making is in fact improving.

    Labour should commit to assessing the extent of the damage right now so it has some real solutions should it find itself in power in May 2015.

    NickD @mylegalforum

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