Skip to main content

Unethical work capability assessment is not fit for purpose


“Do you have pets at home?” The client answered in the affirmative, so the records show that the client, “Feeds and cares for dog without difficulty”. The truth was their pets were cared for by their children.

This is from an account given by the Citizens Advice Bureaux (CAB) in their evidence to the third year review of the Work Capability Assessments. It is one of many statements from their clients experiences of WCA.  In yet another case it was reported a  "client sought advice as the HCP recorded no abnormality and no problem with hands, despite the client having visibly swollen and deformed hands, with a consultant rheumatologist report confirming this."

Anecdotal, yes. But anecdotal evidence can be powerful when the sum total creates a coherent and meaningful testament; when each voice like a thread weaves a tapestry that is compelling and authentic. When there are common features to each narrative. "They did not listen." "They moved on to the next question when I tried to explain." For how else can such evidence be? These are real lives, real people with real stories to tell. Each witness contributes their story of a system that isn't working; a system that is cruel, impersonal and ineffective. And it is cruel and ineffective precisely because it does not listen to their stories.

The CAB evidence should be heeded. Many of the clients they advise have their WCA decision reversed on appeal. It is usually reversed in the light of facts, knowledge and understanding that is not considered in the assessment. The experience of how their clients have been treated in the process is second to none. Their conclusion about the system is damning.


"Citizens Advice retains concerns about the descriptors that are used for assessment purposes. Evidence received from clients suggests that the descriptors that are currently used are not the best markers of a clients disability, or a fair assessment of what they could reasonably be considered ‘fit enough’ to do in a work-environment."

WCA is not fit for purpose. It is based on no reasonable evidence that it works, and meanwhile it does harm.  The Work and Pensions Secretary, Mr Duncan-Smith says it will do good because it will help people back into work to lead productive lives; it will, he says, "make them better people". A utilitarian ethical consideration should consider the ratio of benefit to harm. The harm  cannot simply be ignored because politicians believe in the greater good. Driving people off benefits regardless of the consequences is at best reckless; but when that harm is already clear, it is immoral. And the harm to patients with mental health problems is already compelling.

In a survey of GPs commissioned last year by Rethink Mental Illness and carried out by ICM, 84% of GPs said they had patients who presented with mental health problems such as stress, anxiety or depression as a result of undergoing, or fear of undergoing, the Work Capability Assessment; 21% said they had patients with suicidal thoughts; 14% had patients who had self harmed; 6% had patients who had attempted or had committed suicide. They also thought that the system failed to consider their knowledge and understanding of the patient's history and condition.

How many tears must be shed before their stories are read? We cannot help people 'back to work'  simply by driving them off benefits regardless of their circumstances and regardless of the way their disability affects them in their daily lives.   A process that takes no account of this is a system that is not fit for purpose. It is a heartless and cruel system. In a civilised society we can do better.


If you are concerned about the WCA and how it is affecting people's lives there are two petitions you might consider signing:









Comments

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Ian Duncan-Smith says he wants to make those on benefits 'better people'!

By any account, the government's austerity strategy is utilitarian. It justifies its approach by the presumed potential ends. It's objective is to cut the deficit, but it has also adopted another objective which is specifically targeted. It seeks to drive people off benefits and 'back to work'.  The two together are toxic to the poorest in society. Those least able to cope are the most affected by the cuts in benefits and the loss of services. It is the coupling of these two strategic aims that make their policies ethically questionable. For, by combining the two, slashing the value of benefits to make budget savings while also changing the benefits system, the highest burden falls on a specific group, those dependent on benefits. For the greater good of the majority, a minority group, those on benefits, are being sacrificed; sacrificed on the altar of austerity. And they are being sacrificed in part so that others may be spared. Utilitarian ethics considers the ba

Mr Duncan-Smith offers a disingenuous and divisive comparison

Some time ago, actually it was a long time ago when I was in my early teens, someone close to me bought a table. It was an early flat pack variety. It came with a top and four legs. He followed the instructions to the letter screwing the legs into the top. But when he had completed it the table wobbled. One leg he explained was shorter than the other three; so he sawed a bit from each of the other legs. The table wobbled. One leg, he explained, was longer than the other three. So, he sawed a bit off. The table wobbled. He went on cutting the legs, but the table continued to wobble. Cut, cut, cut! By this time he had convinced himself there was no alternative to it.  He ended up with a very low table indeed, supported by four very stumpy legs and a bit of cardboard placed under one of them to stop it wobbling on the uneven floor.  Mr Duncan-Smith argues that we need a 1% cap on benefits to be 'fair to average earners'. Average  earners have seen their incomes rise by less tha

His way or none? Why I can't vote for Jeremy

There is an assumption that all would be well with the Labour Party if people hadn't expressed their genuine concern with what they consider the inadequacies of Jeremy Corbyn's leadership. If only, it is said, the Parliamentary Labour Party and his Shadow Cabinet had supported him, instead of undermining him, all would have been fine. If they had been quiet and towed the line, then the party would not have been in the mess it is in. So, should they have stayed silent, or speak of their concerns? There comes a point when the cost of staying silent outweighs the cost of speaking out. This is a judgment. Many call it a coup by the PLP. They paint a picture of a right-wing PLP out of touch with the membership.  This is the narrative of the Corbyn camp. But Jeremy Corbyn, over the decades he has been in politics, showed the way.  It was Jeremy Corbyn who opposed almost all Labour leaders and rarely held back from speaking out, or voting time and again against the party line. As