Feb 282015
 

Government responds to the 5th independent review of the Work Capability Assessment

Thanks to Nick Dilworth – ilegal.org.uk & newapproachuk.org

Disabled activist groups need to vigorously protest against these heartless work tests.  To date Government has shown no sign of taking any of their views seriously. One thing is for sure, no amount of window dressing will make it any better.

The government has published its response to the fifth review of the Work Capability Assessment.

It looks as though it’s there to give Maximus a green light to diminishing the large numbers of claimants currently placed in the Support Group of the DWP’s Employment & Support Allowance.

As of May 2014 DWP figures confirm there were 1,031,480 ESA claimants in the Support Group of which 480,930 were recorded as having a mental health problem.  Of the overall total 631,160 were migrated from older incapacity benefits of which 298,840 had a mental health problem.

Infographic showing just how big a failure ESA has been. Produced by Nick Dilworth @Mylegalforum
Infographic showing just how big a failure ESA has been. Produced by Nick Dilworth – ilegal.org.uk & newapproachuk.org. Supporting statistics can be seen at the end of this post

 

The review response comes just after the DWP’s newly appointed replacement for the infamous Atos, a global firm called Maximus announced it will conduct a staggering one million work capability assessments by the end of 2015.  The response is accompanied by a set of exceptionally vague supporting statistics which unsurprisingly focus on Iain Duncan Smith’s number one concern; the large number of Employment & Support Allowance claimants with a mental health problem who have been placed in the Support Group – it’s breaking IDS’s budget and causing his chancellor no end of headaches given the astonishing year on year increase in expenditure on the ill – fated ESA programme which has become extremely expensive and utterly chaotic under IDS’s hopeless leadership.

ESA expenditure is up on earlier government estimates of £11 billion per annum by £2 billion a year to £13 billion a year according to the Centre for Economic Inclusion.  Employment & Support Allowance isn’t in isolation when it comes to Government’s serious problems in finding room for expenditure reduction; the overall welfare bill remains ‘more or less unchanged at £220 billion a year’ (Daily Telegraph).

It’s little wonder that leading disability activist groups DPAC will once again recommence peaceful protesting against WCA’s on the 2nd March in much the same way they did when Atos were in post, one can only hope they get the much needed media coverage they deserve in order to highlight the distinct possibility that more inhumane tests will lead to more tragic deaths of claimants shortly after being found fit for work during crude 45 minute tick box assessments.

The government’s response and the supporting statistics look only at new Employment & Support Allowance claims, completely omitting claimants subjected to repeat assessment and the longer term incapacity migration cases – it was combining these in to the programme which led to the chronic delays and up to 780,000 claimants awaiting an assessment. It’s nothing short of bizarre to exclude them from the equation.

Another key omission are the massive numbers of claimants who have claimed Employment & Support Allowance more than once, very often after being found fit for work; over 800,000 claimants have made a second or more claim in the revolving assessment process; it baffles me how neither the review or response addresses the real problems of this chaotic programme, instead it touches upon a lot of peripheral tinkering and an acknowledgement that large numbers of claimants with a mental health problem are being placed in the Support Group.  It’s hardly rocket science to work out why; the government does not want large numbers being found fit for work.  There is no gap in the labour market to swallow up large numbers of claimants who have been handed one of IDS’s highly damaging scrounger CV’s, employers won’t touch them; thank the Daily Mail et all for ruining their prospects of finding work.

Nor can government see the sense in cramming any more ‘going no where quickly’ claimants in to the now full to the brim Work Related Activity Group.  There’s a practical limit to how many CV’s claimants can be asked to write out in fruitless workshops.  It’s a problem of capacity, thousands may be referred or attached in to the Government’s Work Programme but the proof of the pudding is in the outcomes – just over 26,000 claimants have ended up with a job outcome (0.5%) after 4.8 million assessments since the ESA programme began; it’s a total waste of time and an even bigger waste of cash.

IDS is in deep trouble over the Employment & Support Programme, it’s set to cost far more than he budgeted for when putting together his ideologically focussed media forecasts appearing in Daily Mail headlines telling us that 75% of all claimants would transpire to be scroungers.  I recall the same paper telling us these reforms would whittle the number on the sick down to 600,000 claimants.  IDS is, of course, well aware that the number of claimants is stubbornly stuck on the 2.5 million figures which he ridiculously attributes to ‘parking’ under Labour over the preceding decade.  Perhaps he needs reminding that he’s been in post nearly half a decade now; when last in power it was his government which saw the sick count rocket from around three quarter of a million to the 2.5 million we’ve been stuck with ever since.

The review response fails to address the key problem with the Work Capability Assessment; it simply doesn’t work.

Measures 1 to 6 of the response are connected with the disputes process, this is only deployed once the assessment has, in the eyes of the claimant ‘gone wrong’, it’s hard to see how this can relate to an improvement in the assessment itself.

Measure 7 relates to a semi-structured interview process – it sounds almost half a job and hardly inspires confidence in it being a worthwhile solution.

9 to 11 are purely reactive to IDS’s perception that too many claimants are now languishing in the Support Group, it reads as though he thinks the DWP’s own decision – makers can’t follow the rules which he says have been improved and are now making the wretched process better.   Perversely, large numbers in Support was once heralded as the sign of improvement, now they’ve realised the cost they’ve relabelled it a failure.  Measures 12 onwards offer limited glimmers of hope, it’s just a shame it will never go beyond the obvious window dressing.

Be under no illusion, operation Maximus will be no better than Atos – the difference will be the distinct lack of publicity given to how many are cruelly subjected to the process; the media is bored of it as a topic and sadly the public no longer care.

Here’s a quick run down on the recommendations and the Government’s response, none of which will make the slightest difference to the disastrous assessment and reassessment of thousands of sick claimants in a regime which is well and truly broken beyond any hope of repair.

Recommendation 1

Material changes to the WCA should be fully considered in advance by both policy officials and
operational staff to ensure that policy intent and practical considerations are harmonised.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 2

Use of 360° feedback and its impact on driving up the quality of decision making at all stages of the
WCA process should be monitored over time and trends reported to the appropriate level to ensure
that training needs are met and unintended behaviours are addressed. This work should be seen in
parallel to feedback received from Tribunal services.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 3

The Explanation Call is removed from the mandatory reconsideration process, and that information
on the points of contention are collated and included in the referral to dispute resolution teams where
possible.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 4

Options for displaying a geographical telephone number when making a Reconsideration Call should
be explored. Additionally, SMS messaging or an appropriate alternative method should be used
to provide advance notice in all instances. As with face-to-face assessments, requests to have a
supporting representative on the call should be accommodated where possible.

The Government will consider the recommendation of a geographical telephone number further, will
use SMS messaging where thought appropriate and accepts the recommendation on accommodating
a representative.

Recommendation 5

The Department review its geographical allocation of mandatory reconsideration casework taking
account of both perception issues and practical considerations for avoiding unnecessary delays.

The Government is unable to accept this recommendation.

Recommendation 6

The Department give specific consideration to how it improves the overall perceptions of the
mandatory reconsideration process. This should include publishing target turnaround times and being
clear on the reasons behind ceasing payment of the assessment rate of ESA.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 7

Further work to develop and implement a semi-structured interview should continue. This should be
developed in conjunction with a small number of representative groups. Particular attention should
be paid to interview practices for those with mental health conditions, learning disabilities and
autism, and this should be reflected in the guidance and training developed.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 8

The Department investigates the substantial increase in the proportion of Support Group outcomes as
a matter of urgency to determine whether the WCA is being applied correctly

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 9

The use of Regulation 35(2)(b) should be subject to close scrutiny with a particular focus on decisions
made on a papers only basis.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 10

The drivers for the high rate of young people (16-24) being assigned to the Support Group should be
examined not only to ensure that benefit decisions are correct but also to help provide appropriate
support.

Recommendation 11

The Department bundles future necessary changes into packages delivered no more than bi-annually
to provide greater stability and avoid the perception of constant change to the WCA.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 12

The Department reviews the mechanisms in place for monitoring levels of understanding amongst
staff involved in the ESA process and consider appropriate means of following up this training to
ensure levels of knowledge and understanding remain high.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 13

The Department works with the Provider to improve communications sent in advance of an individual
attending a WCA and ensure that it explains the nature of the WCA, including a description of what
they can expect when they attend.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 14

The Department review its portfolio of alternate formats with specific reference to the use of Easy
Read and then prioritise provision by need to create as many forms as is reasonably practicable.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 16

The Department examines its work flow system, which appears to introduce an inevitable bias
towards granting higher benefit levels, to ensure that the policy intent is being met.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 17

The Department should explore ways and options of improved information between DWP
assessments, including Personal Independence Payment, Disability Living Allowance, Industrial
Injuries Disablement Benefit, Fit for Work and the Work Capability Assessment.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 18

The Department should work with the Department of Health and other appropriate government
departments to explore how DWP can make use of the WCA and the evidence gathered to ensure
individuals are sign posted to appropriate support.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 19

Use of the term ‘prognosis period’ should be discouraged and documentation should be amended
accordingly.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 20

The Department should review its policy and processes around applying short re-referral periods in
the Support Group, particularly for young people with mental health problems, and for longer referral
periods in the WRAG.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 21

The Department should work with the Department for Education and the devolved administrations to
develop improved mechanisms for providing information about the world of work, including the WCA,
to those with learning disabilities at the point of leaving education.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 22

The Department reviews its provision of alternate formats of communication with a view to adopting
Easy Read wherever practicable.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 23

The Department reviews the training given to its own staff and those of the Provider in relation to
learning disabilities to ensure that the risk of overstatement of capability is fully understood.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 24

The Department ensures that it seeks the most appropriate evidence for people with learning
disabilities, including Hospital Passports and care or support plans. The Department should consider
options in each case rather than defaulting to a GP report.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 25

The Department should continue its good work with the MOD to ensure that suitable and sufficient
evidence can be accessed as simply and speedily for ex-Service personnel who make an application
for ESA.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 26

The Department should work with the DH to ensure that suitable and sufficient evidence can be
accessed as simply and speedily as possible for long stay hospital patients who make an application
for ESA or require reassessment.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 27

The Department should review its practice of routinely repeating the WCA for people liberated from
prison who were in receipt of ESA with a reassessment period that is still extant on release.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 28

The Department should work with the MOJ to ensure that suitable and sufficient evidence can be
accessed as simply and speedily as possible for people leaving prison who make an application for
ESA or require reassessment.

The Government accepts this recommendation.


Year 2, Recommendation 8

DWP consider ways of sharing outcomes of the WCA with Work Programme providers to ensure a
smoother claimant journey.

Year 2, Recommendation 7

As and when changes to the descriptors are made, DWP and other relevant experts should monitor
the impact of these changes to ensure both that they are working and that they are not causing any
unintended consequences.

Recommendation 1

Sharing information from the WCA on capability for work with Work Programme Providers should be
addressed as a priority.
[Note: this links to Year 2 Recommendation 8.]

Recommendation 32

Consideration is given to a new reassessment period extending to five years in the Support Group for
people who have very severe incapacity resulting from brain disorders that are degenerative or which
will not realistically improve.


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Supporting Statistics behind ‘Work Capability Assessments – the facts’ infographic

(Thanks go once again to Nick Dilworth – ilegal.org.uk & newapproachuk.org)

Between 28th October 2008 and March 2014, 4,799,800 Work Capability Assessments were conducted out of which 1,362,900 were repeated assessments and 1,296,500 were related to those being migrated from pre-existing incapacity benefits. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/esa-outcomes-of-work-capability-assessments-claims-made-to-mar-2014-and-appeals-to-sept-2014

Between the roll out of the Work Programme in June 2011 to September 2014, out of a total 367,500 ‘Job Outcomes’, 78,480 related to claimants having a disability indicator (mostly on Jobseeker’s Allowance). Of those on incapacity related benefits including Employment & Support Allowance 26,670 achieved a job outcome of at least 3 months; of which 6,160 had a disability indicator. (see figures below) http://tabulation-tool.dwp.gov.uk/WorkProg/wp_cuml_jo/payment_group/clndsbmt/a_cnjo_r_payment_group_c_clndsbmt_sep14.html

Screenshot from 2015-03-01 21:40:12

Between April 2009 and March 2014, 1,065,929 appeals against Employment & Support Allowance decisions have been received by Her Majesties’ Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS).

  ESA Appeals received at HMCTS
2009/10

126,838

2010/11

197,363

2011/12

181,137

2012/13

327,961

2013/14

232,630

Total

1,065,929

 

Success rate for these years at cleared hearings are as follows: (average 40%)

2009/10

37%

2010/11

37%

2011/12

39%

2012/13

43%

2013/14

44%

The number of formal appeals to HMCTS has decreased due the introduction of the DWP’s ‘Mandatory Reconsideration before Appeal’ process in October 2013. However, it is known from recent DWP statistics that 173,500 mandatory reconsiderations (MR) were carried out between October 28th 2013 and October 2014. The DWP has not published the outcomes to these:

A recent FOI request responded to by the DWP shows that between October 28th 2013 and October 2014, a total of 590, 896 Work Capability Assessments were carried out with 374,000 (63%) being placed in the Support Group, 121,896 (21%) in the Work Related Activity Group, and 95,000 (16%) being found Fit for Work. It is of concern that these figures are not being made freely available.

ESA Mandatory Reconsideration & Statistics released by DWP via FOI request.

MR

WRAG FOI

Support Group FOI

Fit for Work FIO

WCA’s Total FOI

Nov-13

5,000

15,237

46,750

11,875

73,862

Dec-13

9,200

15,237

46,750

11,875

73,862

Jan-14

13,600

15,237

46,750

11,875

73,862

Feb-14

15,900

15,237

46,750

11,875

73,862

Mar-14

16,200

15,237

46,750

11,875

73,862

Apr-14

14,400

15,237

46,750

11,875

73,862

May-14

16,700

15,237

46,750

11,875

73,862

Jun-14

16,500

15,237

46,750

11,875

73,862

Jul-14

16,500

Aug-14

14,900

Sep-14

15,400

Oct-14

19,200

173,500

121,896

374,000

95,000

590,896

FOI request: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/401805/5491-2014.pdf

Work Capability Assessment Statistics Oct 2013 – Oct 2014 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/esa-outcomes-of-completed-assessments-oct-2013-to-jun-2014-gb

854,630 ESA reclaims recorded at on-flow. http://83.244.183.180/flows/flows_on/esa/cdquarter/cnclaim/a_carate_r_cdquarter_c_cnclaim.html

The above figures are in marked contrast to those made publicly available by the DWP in their Work Capability Outcome Statistics which they state are only available to March 2014:

  WRAG Group Support Group Fit for Work All WCA totals
Oct-13

4.8

16

8.1

29

Nov-13

4.1

14.1

7.2

25.4

Dec-13

2.7

11.6

4.3

18.6

Jan-14

2.9

12.7

4.9

20.7

Feb-14

2

9.6

2.9

14.5

Mar-14

2

10.4

2.4

14.8

 

18.5

74.4

29.8

123

A significantly higher number of assessments are revealed in the recent ad – hoc statistical release which are not in the widely used Work Capability Assessments Outcome statistics. The ad – hoc release showing 590,896 as the total number of assessments for the period 28th October 2013 to June 2014 compared with 123,000 for the period October 2013 to March 2014.

The WCA outcome statistics are sourced here: (Latest release to September 2014)  https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/esa-outcomes-of-work-capability-assessments-claims-made-to-mar-2014-and-appeals-to-sept-2014

The claimant count figures are sourced here to May 2014 with limited working age to August 2014: http://83.244.183.180/100pc/esa/icdgp/esa_phase/ib_mig/a_carate_r_icdgp_c_esa_phase_p_ib_mig_ib_reassessed_claim_may14.html

The £11 billion per year costing for ESA comes from the following government impact assessment (Rationale for intervention “Annual expenditure on ESA and incapacity benefits is forecast to be in the region of £11bn in 2014/15”) – 20/04/2011 https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/220181/esa-time-limit-wr2011-ia-revised-apr2011.pdf

The £13 billion per year cost estimate of ESA by the Centre for Financial Inclusion is sourced here (“Employment and Support Allowance – approx £13 billion”) March 2014. http://www.cesi.org.uk/social-inclusion-news/2014/mar/inclusions-response-budget-2014-welfare-cap-0


 

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[suffusion-the-author]

[suffusion-the-author display='description']
 Posted by at 20:16

  3 Responses to “Paving the way for Maximus. DWP Response to the 5th WCA Review #ScrapWCA”

  1. Sadly, The torture of the sick & disabled isn’t over and there’s a massive battle ahead.

  2. Thankyou for all you do.

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