Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:36 am on 6th February 2014.

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Photo of Andrew Lansley Andrew Lansley The Leader of the House of Commons 10:36 am, 6th February 2014

I am grateful for the hon. Lady’s question. We have indeed got the gist of what she was saying, and it is important to us. It is the reason why we have taken action to ensure that the work capability assessment is fit for purpose. Our measures include: requiring Atos to retrain its staff; much closer monitoring; and bringing in new providers to carry out assessments. We have also announced that we will seek additional provision to conduct WCAs. I hope that we will continue on the programme, which has been an important and successful one, to ensure that those in receipt of benefits are subject to a proper assessment to see whether they are fit for work or eligible for ESA.

Annotations

Wendy Priestley
Posted on 8 Feb 2014 4:48 pm (Report this annotation)

(See also annotation to Madeleine Moon's question above). The large percentage of people found to have been inaccurately assessed and unfit for work or work-related activity at appeal hearings do indeed reflect the harsh and over-zealous inaccuracies of Atos findings and DWP decisions. However, Capita is performing no better than Atos at present, and there is no reason to think that any other private company contracted to implement DWP policy will perform any better. The problem is the system of assessment now demanded by the DWP, which is not designed to identify claimants in genuine need but to deny as many claimants as possible benefit, whatever the state of their health or disability. The statutory instruments which dictate the methods of assessment since 2010, put in place by the current Secretary of State without any parliamentary scrutiny whatsoever, are unfit for the purpose of identifying the claimants who are in desperate need of support and appear instead to be designed only for the purpose of making it almost impossible for claimants to survive the entirely inappropriate, overly simplistic and excessively harsh, computerized system of assessment written by Atos to the DWPs specification. Atos has no real credible background in health care or assessment. Neither does Capita. It would therefore seem unlikely that any company commissioned by the DWP is likely to perform any better. Claimants cannot accurately be assessed for their fitness for work by a system, put in place by the previous government and tightened still further beyond all recognition by the current one, which does not allow for accurate and informed assessment by genuine medical experts of claimants' disabling conditions: Without proper understanding of claimants' conditions, there can be no accurate assessment of their ability to work. The government's "mistake" is in its oft repeated mantra that the assessment of capability for work can be separated from the assessment by genuine NHS medical experts of claimants' medical conditions or disabilities; that Atos or Capita or whoever - implementing the DWP's post 2010 criteria - can somehow assess the effect of these conditions on claimant fitness for work without proper understanding of the disabilities or chronic illnesses themselves. Therein lies the fundamental error - if, indeed, it IS an error rather than mere wordplay convenient to a political agenda.