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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.’