The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) – will it be business as usual?

November 26, 2010

The Coalition have said they accept all of the recommendations made by Professor Harrington in his report on the WCA, but what does this mean in reality?

I think the first thing we should note is that Prof Harrington, who will continue in his role as independent reviewer, said:

“This is not about ripping up the current system and starting all over again. I am proposing a substantial series of recommendations to improve the fairness and effectiveness of the assessment.”

The WCA  involves a “functional health assessment”, denoting an individual’s ability to work, rather than the previous “diagnostic medical assessment” which focused on particular conditions. Some would argue this new approach was a step forward and moves away from ‘medicalising’ disabled people’s lives. Others, like myself, argue that these assessments are in reality no better than the previous and therefore they remain the epitome of the ‘individual model of disability’.

A major problem we have to contend with is that very few people outside the specialist medical professions and academics within the Sociology or Medicine or Disability Studies have ever heard of let alone understand the nature of “disability medical assessments”. Of course it would have been foolishly naïve of campaigners to expect Harrington to acknowledge that the methodology behind the assessment is in direct opposition to the approach recommended in the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People. We remain in the same position we were before the report was published; is difficult to demonstrate to the ordinary person in the street how flawed the methodology is and why, despite all the review’s recommendations, the disablism found within the WCA will remain intact.

A major problem we have to contend with is that very few people outside the specialist medical professions and academics within the Sociology or Medicine or Disability Studies have ever heard of let alone understand the nature of “disability medical assessments”. Of course it would have been foolishly naïve of campaigners to expect Harrington to acknowledge that the methodology behind the assessment is in direct opposition to the approach recommended in the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People. We remain in the same position we were before the report was published; is difficult to demonstrate to the ordinary person in the street how flawed the methodology is and why, despite all the review’s recommendations, the disablism found within the WCA will remain intact.

Secondly, the fact Mr Grayling said the government accepted all the review’s recommendations, suggests that the changes already in the pipeline aren’t going to be derailed by this report. It is the opinion of the Benefits and Work website that Coalition are still going ahead with changes to the WCA which they set out earlier this year and that these change are going to make the assessments more harsh and unjust rather than ‘fairer or just’.

One very positive outcome of the Harrington review however is the recommendation that the audio taping of medicals should be piloted to see if it is a practical possibility.

 

To see my personal take on the WCA go to:

 

http://www.disabilityartsonline.org.uk/?location_id=1228

Bob Williams-Findlay

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