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