The Department for Work and Pensions has welcomed the latest recommendations from Professor Harrington's third review of the Work Capability Assessment.
This will be Professor Harrington's last review before the appointment of a successor, and his new recommendations include:
- Measures to further improve the collecting of medical evidence as early in the process as possible;
- Ensuring DWP decision-makers have enough time to make carefully considered decisions while ensuring a timely service;
- Continued engagement with the judiciary to understand why some decisions are overturned on appeal
Minister for Employment, Mark Hoban, said:
"I welcome Professor Harrington’s findings that our strenuous efforts to improve the WCA are indeed making a difference. The system we inherited wasn’t working properly, but the changes we have made already to make the WCA more accurate and effective mean the proportion of people being placed in the Support Group for ESA has more than doubled in just two years.
"However, I also share his view that more needs to be done. The WCA is the right process for determining who is able to work and who needs support, and we are committed to continual improvement, which is why I am happy to accept all of Professor Harrington’s recommendations. It is in everyone’s interest to make sure the system is as fair and as accurate as possible."
But critics point to the high level of successful appeals, currently running at 38% of all those submitted, as evidence that the WCA has not become more accurate, and the suggestion that a doubling of the number being placed in the support group is evidence of accuracy is unlikely to placate them.
Improvements made as a result of Professor Harrington’s previous reviews include:
- Better communication with claimants, including phone calls from decision-makers to ensure all medical evidence has been provided;
- Introducing 60 mental health champions into assessment centres to provide advice to Atos healthcare professionals;
- Simplifying the process for people undergoing treatment for cancer, reducing the need for face-to-face assessments and ensuring more are placed in the Support Group