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Policy News

News on issues affecting disabled people and disabled people's organisations. Last updated 22.04.14

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Labour's Plans for the Work Capability Assessment

Last week, MPs Rachel Reeves, shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, and Kate Green, shadow Minister for Disabled People, published a brief commentary in The Independent explaining how Labour would reform the controversial Work Capability Assessment (WCA) for people claiming Employment and Support Allowance. Acknowledging that the test they introduced themselves is failing, lacks credibility, causes hardship and is not linked up with employment support, they propose three things:

  1. "We'll starting by transforming the way the WCA is designed to make it more effective at helping disabled people into 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."
  2. "The second change we'd make is to give disabled people a central role in monitoring the way the tests are run.... We would continue to produce an independent review of the WCA, and ask the Office for Disability Issues to support an independent scrutiny group of disabled people to work together with the independent reviewer to assess whether the test is being conducted in a fair and transparent way."
  3. "Finally a Labour government will go further in ensuring that the assessments get it right first time. ... we’d make sure that in the new system there would be clear penalties for poor performance, measured both on the number of times decisions are overturned by DWP decision makers, and the number of times they are overturned on appeal.... Failure to get it right first time will result in financial penalties."

Campaigner Sue Marsh commented on their plans in the Guardian. She expresses concern about the lack of detail but cautiously welcomes their content:

"It's hard not to be frustrated that we're so far from where we should be. Every day, more lives are ruined, and it's clear from Wednesday's article that any real reform will be by baby steps. There will be no "big bang", no moment of cathartic triumph. But if we look back at a Labour party who three years ago were defining the problem as one of "shirkers" who could work but didn't, the direction of travel is clear. It seems that Labour has finally accepted that the employment and support allowance must change. That alone is cause for celebration. However, we still seem to be a very long way from knowing how or when."

And Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC) have also given their views on the piece, drawing on the UK Disabled Peoples’ Reclaiming our Futures Manifesto: "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."


For more information, please contact Elaine Astley.