I should be pleased.
This Site has campaigned against the Work Capability Assessment for sickness and disability benefits, practically since I started publishing it at the end of 2011.
In my opinion, it has been misused, as a tool to force people who are too ill to work onto job-seeking benefits that carry sanctions if a claimant fails to carry out particular tasks – tasks which the long-term sick and disabled are often clearly incapable of doing.
In many cases, the results have been fatal. I know this because it took me two years to force the Department for Work and Pensions to release figures showing that 2,400 people died within a limited period (two weeks) after being found fit for work, between dates in 2011 and 2014.
That’s right – these people had been found fit to go to work by this hopelessly flawed tick-box assessment system, and then they had proven themselves to be nothing of the sort.
And the Tory government carried on as though nothing was wrong.
I also have personal experience of the system’s flaws. After my partner – Mrs Mike; remember her? – was wrongly put in the work-related activity group for Employment and Support Allowance, she appealed in the hope of being relocated to the support group.
Instead, whoever received her letter slapped a “Do Not Contact” tag on her file for no discernible reason and allowed her claim to end after 12 months, while she waited – in considerable confusion and distress – for a response that was never going to come.
Fortunately, I was around to kick up a stink and get the situation sorted out. But that just highlights the fact that many thousands of people don’t have that kind of help at hand.
And now, we’re told, the Work Capability Assessment is to be scrapped.
But we’re not being told what will replace it.
This Independent article has comments from a couple of organisations that have a stake in what happens:
Trades Union Congress general secretary Paul Novak [said:] “Scrapping the work capability assessment will be welcome if it means an end to assessments that cause anxiety instead of helping people achieve their aspirations,” he added, while urging greater investment in public services to get people off NHS waiting lists and reduce barriers to training.
James Taylor of the disability equality charity Scope said axing the assessment was “the minimum change needed to even begin improving a welfare system that regularly fails disabled people”, and stressed the need for “a more person-centred system” offering “specialist, tailored and flexible” support.
“Those that want to work should be supported. But for some, that’s not an option and disabled people shouldn’t be forced into unsuitable work,” he said. “There is a lot of work to do for the government to restore trust in our benefits system.”
Notice that they both mentioned ways of getting more people back into work; this is Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s aim with the changes to the benefit system.
And that’s why I fear for the future of sickness and disability benefits in the UK.
I think the odious Hunt is planning another push to put sick people into jobs they can’t do. If I’m right, his plan will fail on many levels.