Last night’s Panorama and Dispatches investigations into the operation of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) were long overdue.
The programmes highlighted the assessment process Employment and Support Allowance which judges whether people are too ill or too disabled to work. But as acknowledged in last night’s Panorama by the Government’s independent assessor of the system, Professor Harrington, the system is “still not working”.
Having sat through so many programmes highlighting fraud and “scrounging”, I was beginning to get a sore throat from shouting that these were exceptions to the rule. According to a new report by Scope, many disabled people are experiencing worsening public attitudes as a result.
But, last night, finally, we had two programmes willing to challenge the Government on the shocking record of the Work Capability Assessment. Firstly, Dispatches went under cover with the independent contractor carrying out the WCA. Panorama followed this with an investigation into the WCA and how it has affected the lives of disabled people.
The most terrifying part of it, for me, was the claim from Minister for the Department of Work and Pensions during Panorama that the Government is providing “tough love”.
Let's just remind ourselves of some facts about the WCA - 39% of appeals against "fit for work" decisions are upheld, two thirds of which come from people who were originally judged to have 0 points by the assessment. That sounds pretty tough - but where's the love?
At ENABLE Scotland we believe that people who have learning disabilities have lots to offer the labour market, but they are not getting the opportunity. “Tough love” won’t work – people need sustained investment in supported employment programmes and support throughout their lives to understand the value of work and improve their aspirations.
“Tough love” or a system out of control? What do you think? Let us know your views below.
What can you do to help?
1 - Sign Pat’s Petition calling for the Government to stop and review benefit cuts
2 - Let us know if you have received any information you did not understand about benefit tests or changes from the Department of Work and Pensions
3 - Write to your MP – tell them your concerns and ask them to attend a Parliamentary debate on the Work Capability Assessment on Tuesday 4 September
4 - Look out for more Hardest Hit events later this year and get involved!