WCA descriptors fail, DWP fails, Atos fails: a case study
Does any part of the work capability assessment actually work?
A recent case has come to light which proves beyond doubt, as many people suspected, that:
- the work capability assessment is a complete shambles,
- the WCA descriptors are completely inadequate at assessing fitness for work,
- the descriptors fail miserably to capture a person’s level of disability,
- the descriptors fail to predict the long term prognosis of a disabled or a sick person,
- DWP and Atos over-reliance on these descriptors explain the number of successful appeals against fit to work decisions.
It is unimaginable that the DWP and Atos are unaware of these failings - however, they continue to give more weight to WCA descriptors than to professional medical evidence.
In the following case, and many other cases, judgement based on medical evidence is the only solid basis for robust, fair and reliable assessment of a level of disability.
It is also the only solid basis for predictability of ability to return to work. This is clearly illustrated by Charles’ story (shown below).
Finally the asinine crudeness and sheer stupidity of what the DWP have the impudence to call a ‘medical report’ is shown by a copy of Charles’ report. If there is a case to illustrate the inadequacy and the irrelevance of using descriptors for WCA assessment, it is this.
If there is a case to show that Atos computer based assessments are not fit for purpose, it is this.
How much longer will this rotten system be allowed to continue to fail sick and disabled people within our society?
Here is Charles’ story:
Charles stopped work after contracting a serious viral infection in July 2009 and was also diagnosed as having ME in November 2009. He claimed ESA in June 2010.
In 2011, he had an Atos WCA assessment, which found him fit to work but after appeal he was put in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG).
He was placed again in the WRAG after a second assessment in January 2012, although he felt he should be in the Support Group, but was too ill to appeal the decision.
A few months later, in April 2012, he was diagnosed as having leukaemia and a degenerative dysfunction of the spinal cord.
Following this, on several occasions he contacted the Benefits Office to request to be put in the Support Group, but received no direct response.
In April 2012, his ESA was stopped because his savings exceeded the threshold, but in August 2012, he notified the Benefits Office that that was no longer the case and sent a letter in September to explain his financial situation.
He did not receive any response, and he was still not receiving any benefits, although in September 2012, he was sent another ESA50 form to complete.
In September 2012, he requested a copy of the report from his last ATOS assessment from January 2012.
Although he did not receive this report despite a further request, a few days later he received a medical report dated mid 2012, which until then he did not know existed, having never met the ‘author’ of the Report, a Registered Nurse and Approved Disability Analyst.
Reading the report, Charles was astonished to discover that although the nurse who reviewed the medical evidence stated explicitly that he was unlikely to return to work the medical evidence did not score any points for him against the descriptors.
As Charles has been too unwell to return to work, it seems that the nurse’s judgement, based on the medical evidence presented to her, was right, and that the descriptors were unable to capture Charles’ level of disability and his long term prognosis.
This fact was recognised by the nurse who wrote that if Charles was called to board, he would score above the threshold, but that there was insufficient evidence that he met the LCWRA descriptors.
But because the DWP decided that more weight should be given to the descriptors than the medical evidence, the nurse’s recommendations were disregarded, although ultimately they were correct.
Charles pursued the matter, with assistance, and the decision not to place him in the Support Group was reversed in November 2012, backdated to February 2012
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