Disability charities have slammed the government's Workplace Capability Assessments (WCA) as ‘farcical' as those with progressive conditions are being advised they could consider a return to work.
Almost half of people with conditions such as Parkinson's Disease, Cystic Fibrosis, Multiple Sclerosis, or Rheumatoid Arthritis, who put in a claim for employment support allowance (ESA) are being placed in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG).
The WRAG defines people as able to recover to the point where they can look for work.
This directly contradicts the definition of a progressive condition, which can only get worse over time, the charities warned.
Caroline Hacker, head of policy at The Parkinson's Society said: "A system which tells people who have had to give up work because of a debilitating progressive condition that they'll recover, is farcical and simply defies belief."
In a joint submission to the 4th independent review of the WCA, that closes today, the Parkinson's Society, MS Society, Cystic Fibrosis Trust and the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society is highlighting the following:
• Overall 45% of people with these four progressive conditions are placed in the WRAG when newly assessed for ESA, and allocated a prognosis period for when they may have recovered enough to return to work
• 70% of new claimants with progressive conditions have been reassessed two or more times on the same claim
• 11% of these are then found to have experienced an improvement in their condition at reassessment
• There is no evidence that Atos Healthcare Professionals or DWP decision makers have sought additional evidence to clinically justify improvement or prognosis periods for recovery.
The four charities are calling for major changes to the WCA including the end of "contradictory" WRAG prognosis statements which advise "a return to work could be considered in x months" if that person has a debilitating progressive condition.
In addition, Atos Healthcare Professionals should be obliged to seek further evidence to clinically justify their recommendations on likely return to work before being able to place anyone with a progressive condition in the WRAG, the charities urged.
Hacker added:"It shows that many assessors, and those who rubber-stamp the decisions in government, don't apply the most basic understanding of the medical conditions they are dealing with."
Progressive conditions and the WCA: a submission for the 4th independent review can be found HERE