Govt accepts need for WCA investigation

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The government has accepted a recommendation to investigate the increase in the number of sick or disabled people sent by Work Capability Assessments (WCA) to a Support Group.

The report found that an increasing proportion of those placed in Support Groups, (where claimants do take part in any further interviews or assessments until the claim is renewed again) had mental health conditions.

The decision was part of the government's response to recommendations following a review of the WCA from Dr Paul Litchfield.

Other recommendations accepted include publishing target turnaround times, ensuring people sent to a WCA understand the nature of it and that more support should be offered to those with learning difficulties. This includes adopting easy read communications wherever possible, the report said. 

The government also accepted the need to examine systems at the Department of Work and Pensions which "appears to introduce an inevitable bias towards granting higher benefit levels."

Other measures accepted included improved staff training and ensuring that levels of understanding and knowledge remain high was accepted.

However the recommendation that: "The Department review its geographical allocation of mandatory reconsideration casework taking account of both perception issues and practical considerations for avoiding unnecessary delays" was rejected.

The government's response said that: "As there is no indication of a significant problem from officials being located in different areas from the claimants whose cases they are handling, the Department is unable to accept this recommendation.

"The Department has locations throughout the country and needs to maintain operational flexibility to ensure the best use of valuable staff resources."

Use of the term "prognosis period" should be discouraged the report recommended and signposting support available from WCA evidence recommendations were also accepted.

The report, An independent review of the Work Capability Assessment - year five was published in November 2014.

In the foreword to the government's response, Mark Harper, Minister of State for Disabled People said: "I agree with Dr Litchfield's analysis of the key areas for further exploration: the increasing number of people in the Support Group (especially younger people); the need to ensure that communications are as good as they can be (especially for more vulnerable claimants); and better support for claimants with learning disabilities."

He added: "This work has started with Disability Confident, the introduction of the Fit For Work service and improving access to mental health services.

"I am particularly pleased that the Department for Work and Pensions has started to work much more closely with the Department of Health, especially on providing better support for people with mental health conditions."

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