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Work capability assessments have ‘disproportionate effect' on the vulnerable, say MPs

The Government’s work capability assessment process has a ‘disproportionate effect’ on the most vulnerable patients and fails to adequately account for rare, variable and mental health conditions, say MPs.

The report from the influential Public Accounts Committee said the Department for Work and Pensions should review the ‘tick-box’ approach of the assessments, run by private company ATOS, and the related costs to the NHS.

The assessments, which judge whether a patient is fit for work, have come under criticism from several angles, including from MPs, the BMA and others. But the committee found that ‘the problems lie firmly with the DWP’.

It concluded: ‘The Work Capability Assessment process has a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable claimants.

‘The standardised “tick-box” approach fails to adequately account for rare, variable or mental health conditions and this can lead to greater inaccuracies in decision-making for these particular claimant groups.

‘We welcome the efforts made to improve the process and encourage the Department to continue to review the operation of the work capability assessment for vulnerable groups.’

It also said that the DWP should take account of the financial effects on the NHS.

The report said: ‘The Department does not know the full cost of the overall decision-making process. Its processes have financial effects across government, for example, in the NHS, and high levels of appeals increase the Department’s own administrative costs yet it has not assessed the overall cost to the taxpayer.

‘Without this information the Department will be unable to assess the value for money of its decision-making processes.’

Readers' comments (3)

  • judging by some of our patients who have been declared fit for work. the fact he had a pulse and got to an assessment seemed to enough. Some very disabled patients have had their benefits stopped - it shames ATOS

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  • As a parent of a man with Asperger's synrome who is about to go back into battle again with ATOS I can confimr that the system is weighted against the disabled. My son doesn't have the capability to even begin to know how to fill in the 20 page form. If it wasn't for us having carefully filed all previous educational psychology reports and letters from psychologists and psychiatrists and also having written a very detaailed 2 page summary of his condition and attached it to the form, he would have no one to fight his corner.

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  • Everything about the work of ATOS on WCAs and its relationship with the DWP is utterly outrageous - like everything else I've heard or read about PFI contracts set up by the Coalition or New Labour before them. We've been told repeatedly that 'you can't cure problems by throwing money at them', but it seems you can and should believe - in spite of all the evidence to the contrary - that any problem can be cured by chucking huge truckloads of public money in the direction of any private organisation that cares to grab it.

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