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The government wouldn’t do it – so an influential Parliamentary committee has decided to launch its own inquiry into Employment and Support Allowance and the Work Capability Assessment that determines eligibility for it.
I will be submitting evidence to this inquiry and I strongly suggest that, if you have a story to tell, then you should provide evidence as well.
According to the Parliament.uk website, the decision to undertake an inquiry from today (February 6) was made in light of recent developments including the publication of several reviews of the WCA, expressions of concern from DWP regarding Atos’s performance in delivering the WCA, and the introduction of mandatory reconsideration.
Submissions of no more than 3,000 words are invited from interested organisations and individuals.
The Committee is particularly interested to hear views on:
- Delivery of the WCA by Atos, including steps taken to improve the claimant experience
- The effectiveness of the WCA in indicating whether claimants are fit for work, especially for those claimants who have mental, progressive or fluctuating illnesses, including comparison with possible alternative models
- The process and criteria for procuring new providers of the WCA
- The ESA entitlement decision-making process
- The reconsideration and appeals process
- The impact of time-limiting contributory ESA
- Outcomes for people determined fit for work or assigned to the WRAG or the Support Group and
- The interaction between ESA and Universal Credit implementation
- Submissions do not need to address all of these points.
The deadline for submitting evidence is Friday, March 21.
To encourage paperless working and maximise efficiency, select committees are now using a new web portal for online submission of written evidence. The web portal is available on the Parliament.uk website here.
The personal information you supply will be processed in accordance with the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 for the purposes of attributing the evidence you submit and contacting you as necessary in connection with its processing.
Each submission should be in Word format with as little use of colour or logos as possible, and have numbered paragraphs.
If you need to send a paper copy, send it to: The Clerk, Work and Pensions Committee, House of Commons, 7 Millbank, London SW1P 3JA.
Material already published elsewhere should not form the basis of a submission, but may be referred to within a proposed memorandum, in which case a web link to the published work should be included.
Once submitted, evidence is the property of the committee. It is the committee’s decision whether or not to accept a submission as formal written evidence.
Select committees are unable to investigate individual cases.
The committee normally, though not always, chooses to make public the written evidence it receives, by publishing it on the internet (where it will be searchable), or by making it available through the Parliamentary Archives. If there is any information you believe to be sensitive you should highlight it and explain what harm you believe would result from its disclosure. The Committee will take this into account in deciding whether to publish or further disclose the evidence.
Further guidance on submitting evidence to Select Committees is available on the Parliament website.
Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) was introduced in October 2008 for claimants making a new claim for financial support on the grounds of illness or incapacity. It replaced Incapacity Benefits, Income Support by virtue of a disability and Severe Disablement Allowance.
ESA is paid to people who have limited capability for work (who are placed in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG)), and people who have limited capability for work related activity (who are placed in the Support Group).
Most claimants applying for ESA are invited to a face-to-face assessment to help determine whether they fall within either of these two groups or whether they are fit for work. This Work Capability Assessment (WCA) is carried out by Atos Healthcare under its medical services contract with DWP. Atos produces a report and this is used by the DWP Decision Maker, alongside any other additional evidence, to determine whether the claimant should be placed in the WRAG or the Support Group, or is fit for work.
In April 2011, the Government began reassessing existing Incapacity Benefits (IB) claimants to determine their eligibility for ESA using the WCA. The Committee published a report on Incapacity Benefit Reassessment in July 2011.
A debate was held in Parliament on January 13, in which MPs called for an inquiry into the effect of changes to the benefit system on the incidence of poverty in this country; the question was whether poverty was increasing as a result of the so-called reforms.
Parliament voted massively in favour of the inquiry (125 votes for; two against), as reported here.
But the Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition government ignored the vote and did nothing.
It seems this committee-led inquiry is the next-best thing.
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