The Disability Benefits Consortium welcomes Professor Malcolm Harrington’s second annual review of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) which was published today.

Mark Baker, Co-Chair of the DBC, says:

“We are pleased that Professor Harrington is continuing his work to review the WCA and it is encouraging to hear his belief that progress is being made in improving the WCA experience for disabled people.”

Professor Harrington’s first review recommendations last year were accepted by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and efforts have been made to improve the system. But we are concerned that progress has been slow and fundamental problems remain with the assessment process for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) applicants.

Neil Coyle, DBC Steering Group member says:

“We would like to see more significant effort made by Government to ensure further improvements are made to the WCA as swiftly as possible to reduce avoidable expenditure on appeals. We would also welcome a better approach to enhance support for disabled people to get and keep work, including greater use of the Access to Work [5] initiative. We are also keen for the DWP to accept the findings of recent media studies, research and the NUJ and stop the negative portrayal of disabled people who need support from our welfare system.”

The DBC is also concerned at the context in which Professor Harrington’s review is being published: a backdrop of sweeping changes to the welfare system affecting the lives of millions of disabled people. The Welfare Reform Bill, currently being debated in the House of Lords, is set to impose a one year time-limit placed on contributory ESA, a move which will undermine the effectiveness of the benefit and deny support to hundreds of thousands of disabled people.

We urge DWP to continue efforts to improve the WCA and avoid repeating the mistakes made in the reform of Incapacity Benefits in plans to change Disability Living Allowance.

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