Nov 132013
 

Dr Paul Litchfield, who has been asked by DWP to carry out the 4th Independent Review of the WCA is not as independent as he seems.

He was part of the Mental Health Technical Working Group commissioned by DWP in 2006, with, among others, Sue Godby from the College of Occupational Therapists and Unum Provident, and Dr Angela Graham from Atos Origin, to develop ‘proposals from transforming the Personal Capability Assessment (the forerunner to the WCA), from an incapacity-based tool for determining entitlment to Incapacity Benefit to a more positive assessment incorporating assessment of capability and of health related interventions which would contribute to overcoming health-related barriers preventing people with disabilities  from engaging with work’.  

With new emphasis on what disabled people were able to do rather than on their limitations or on the social barriers they may encounter, the new test was what effectively became the WCA, adopting the biopsychosocial model promoted by Unum.

 

The new descriptors are a mirror image of the old ones, which recognised that some actitives could not be performed at all by a disabled person, while the new ones only recognise different levels of ‘difficulties’  for the same activity.

But this new version of PCA also makes a clear break from the old one as its intention is not only to explore disabled people’s residual functional ability but also ‘their approach and attitude to returning to work’ which is one of the main feature of the biopsychosocial model, which sees disability or sickness as a  ’state of mind’.

 

Ultimately there is a very clear conflict of interest:  Dr Paul Litchfield will have to assess the effectiveness of the WCA, in particular ‘the way that mental health conditions are considered in the WCA’ and to consider the ‘biopsychosocial factors that influence capability for work’ as part of his review.

As part of the evidence one can speculate that he will certainly also receive, like Dr Harrington, strong calls for the WCA to be scrapped.

 

And as Dr Harrington did, he will certainly respond that the Independent Reviewer has not seen or heard any compelling arguments or evidence that the whole system should be scrapped.

 

How could he not say that about the WCA? After all, he designed it.

 

See the following document which now only seems to exist on the website WhyWaitforEver or as a hardcopy in the Parliament Deposited Papers: Transformation of the Personal Capability Assessment

 

 

 

Jan 162013
 

 

DPAC Press Release 

WCA Descriptors fail, DWP fails, Atos fails.  

Does any part of Work Capability Assessment actually work?

A recent case has come to light which proves beyond doubt, as many people suspected, that:

 -the Work Capability Assessment is a complete shambles,

 -the WCA Descriptors are completely inadequate at assessing fitness for work,

-the Descriptors fail miserably to capture a person’s level of disability,

-the Descriptors fail to predict the long term prognosis of a disabled or a sick person,

-the DWP and Atos over-reliance on these descriptors explain the number of successful appeals against Fit to Work decisions.

 It is unimaginable that the DWP and Atos are unaware of these failings, however they continue to give more weight to WCA Descriptors than to Professional Medical Evidence.

 In the following case, and many other cases, judgement based on Medical Evidence is the only solid basis for robust, fair and reliable assessment of a level of disability.

 It is also the only solid basis for predictability of ability to return  to work. This is  clearly illustrated by Charles’ story (shown below).

 Finally the asinine crudeness and sheer stupidity of what the DWP have the impudence to call a ‘medical report’ is shown by a copy of Charles’ report (attached).
If there is a case to illustrate the inadequacy and the irrelevance of  using Descriptors for WCA assessment, it is this.

 If there is a case to show the casual and irresponsible attitude of the Department of Work and Pensions towards Sick and Disabled benefit Claimants, it is this.

 If there is a case to show that Atos computer based assessments are not fit for purpose, it is this.

 How much longer will this rotten system be allowed to continue to fail Sick and Disabled people within our Society?

 

Here is Charles’ Story:

 Charles stopped work after contracting a serious viral infection in July 2009 and was also diagnosed as having ME in November 2009. He claimed ESA in June 2010.

 In 2011 he had an Atos WCA assessment, which found him fit to work but after appeal he was put in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG).

 He was placed again in the WRAG after a second assessment in January 2012, although he felt he should be in the Support Group, but was too ill to appeal the decision. 

A few months later, in April 2012, he was diagnosed as having Leukaemia and a degenerative dysfunction of the spinal cord.

 Following this, on several occasions he contacted the Benefits Office to request to be put in the Support Group, but received no direct response.

 In April 2012, his ESA was stopped because his savings exceeded the threshold but in August 2012 he notified the Benefits Office that that was no longer the case and sent a letter in September to explain his financial situation.

 He did not receive any response, and he was still not receiving any benefits, although in September 2012, he was sent another ESA50 form to complete.

 In September 2012, he requested a copy of the report from his last ATOS assessment from January 2012.

 Although he did not receive this report despite a further request, a few days later he received a Medical Report dated mid 2012, which until then he did not know existed, having never met the ‘author’ of the Report, a Registered Nurse and Approved  Disability Analyst.

 Reading the report, Charles was astonished to discover that although the nurse who reviewed the medical evidence stated explicitly that he was unlikely to return to work the medical evidence did not score any points for him against the descriptors.

 As Charles has been too unwell to return to work, it seems that the nurse’s judgement, based on the medical evidence presented to her, was right, and that the descriptors were unable to capture Charles’ level of disability and his long term prognosis.

 This fact was recognised by the nurse who wrote that if Charles was called to Board he would score above the threshold but that there was insufficient evidence that he met the LCWRA descriptors.

 But because the DWP decided that more weight should be given to the descriptors than the medical evidence, the nurse’s recommendations were disregarded, although ultimately they were correct.

 Charles pursued the matter, with assistance, and the decision not to place him in the Support Group was reversed in November 2012, backdated to February 2012

 

 the link takes you to  a copy of the Medical Report for Charles’ case (reproduced with his permission), clearly showing that the Descriptors give Charles a clean bill of health, while in reality he is completely unfit for work.

 For further information, please contact Annie Howard anniehoward83@gmail.com

 ESA report form