MSPs suggest changes to Iain Duncan Smith on improving Work Capability Assessments

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Five changes have been suggested to Iain Duncan Smith MP, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, to make Work Capability Assessments (WCA) more “effective and humane”.

Convener Michael McMahon MSP wrote to Mr Duncan Smith on behalf of the Scottish Parliament’s Welfare Reform Committee following speculation that ATOS wish to withdraw from its WCA contract before it is due to expire in August 2015.

In a letter published today, he outlines five changes the Department of Work and Pensions should make:

  1. Those on Employment Support Allowance (ESA) with long-term conditions should not be subject to re-assessments. 
  2. ESA should only be undertaken by health care professionals who have the knowledge and experience to understand and recognise the individual’s condition.
  3. Changes should be made to WCA criteria to better recognise fluctuating conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis and hidden symptoms like fatigue and pain.
  4. People applying for ESA should be treated with dignity and respect.
  5. DWP communication should be written in plain English and make it clear what the impact of the decisions are.

Committee Convener Michael McMahon MSP said: “There have already been independent reviews of WCA and yet the evidence coming to our Committee demonstrates there is much more to do to make them effective and humane. It is ridiculous to expect people with conditions like Multiple Sclerosis to keep going through assessments. Whilst their symptoms may fluctuate, there is currently no prospect of the disease being cured and the stress on individuals is out of kilter with a society that cares for the sick and vulnerable.

“We have made five constructive and practical suggestions that, if agreed to, can help reassure people claiming that they will be treated with respect. Perhaps Iain Duncan Smith MP would like to come to our Committee and respond in public to these suggestions.”

Deputy Committee Convener Jamie Hepburn MSP added: “Time and again, we have heard evidence from people that they have been treated like scroungers, by a system they have paid into.  We have written to Iain Duncan Smith because there is an opportunity to make sure the roll out of Personal Independent Payments does not negatively impact on people’s health and mental well-being as the ESA assessments did.”