The recent Panorama and Dispatches programmes exposed the experiences of many disabled people undergoing Work Capability Assessments (WCA) through undercover filming, which confirms what people have told us of their own assessments. Today it was announced that Atos has won £400m contracts to carry out disability benefit tests.
There is so much more to be told, so many disabled peoples stories about how they are being treated during WCA’s, the outcome of assessments, appeals process and at tribunal hearings. There could be a programme for each part of the journey. There is only so much that can be told within a 30 minute programme.
We feel the inconsistency in the WCA process needs to be addressed; as shown by Panorama and Dispatches people are being assessed within twenty minutes based on the assessor’s opinion and interpretation and without any other medical evidence being taken into account. Consequently many are being awarded zero points and deemed ‘fit for work’ and taken off Incapacity Benefit/Employment Support Allowance.
It would seem that this is happening far too often and despite the Governments agenda to rectify current deficits the WCA could be costing considerably more through the appeals process. In addition there is also the human cost which would appear to be overlooked on many occasions.
We are in touch with a number of people who have had negative experiences of the WCA process.
Catherine recently shared her story with us:
Catherine is a 58 year old woman living with Fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis and depression. Her condition fluctuates daily. She experiences pain throughout her body, eyes sensitive to light some days, mood swings up and down which is often affected by the pain she experiences.
Catherine is in-receipt of Employment Support Allowance following a successful tribunal hearing in Sept 2011 where she went from being awarded zero points to twenty-two points (three for mental health and nineteen for physical). She was required to attend yet another WCA assessment in April this year (2012) and received a letter 28 June telling her that she had been awarded zero points. As a result from the 4th Aug 2012 her ESA will stop and her income will significantly drop again. Twenty-two points to zero in a matter of months would seem to be unlikely in any assessment process; in this process it appears all too common and underlines deficiencies highlighted by the Panorama.
The whole process has had a negative impact on Catherine’s mental well-being.
Catherine is seeking support from her local Citizens Advice Bureau and is dreading the thought of going through the whole process of appeal again (for the second time in just over a year).
The whole process is proving stressful for those concerned and in fact costly as a result of the constant assessments, appeals, tribunal hearings and the re-instatement of benefits when WCA decisions are overturned at tribunal, which many are.