Earlier in the week, a Mr George Potter, Lib Dem, left a comment on my blog asking if I would help with a motion he had tabled for the Lib Dem conference in the Autumn. Here it is :
Policy Motion on Employment Support Allowance and Work Capability Assessments
a) That the Government has stated an aim to move people off Employment SupportAllowance (ESA) and into work.
b) Work Capability Assessments determining eligibility for ESA are carried out by the private company Atos Healthcare who are paid on a target based system for every claimant assessed fit to be removed from claiming ESA and back into work.
c) 70% of case rejection decisions by Atos assessments which go to appeal are subsequently overturned.
d) The appeal success rate is much higher for claimants with representation than those without.
e) The way in which work capability assessments are conducted has been regularly criticised by Parliamentary Inquiries and by the Tribunal Judiciary.
Conference believes that:
a) It is the duty of a compassionate society and the Government to provide the necessary support for those who are unable to support themselves.
b) The new Assessment procedure is "not fit for purpose".
c) The Work Capability Assessment is inaccurate.
d) Any medical assessments should be carried out by trained medical professionals.
e) Whilst recognising the understandable need to remove false claimants from the system, it is wrong to have a system where the primary focus is on keeping people from claiming the benefit and treating every claimant as a potential fraudster, rather than a focus on ensuring that the most vulnerable get the support they need.
f) A system where 70% of decisions are overturned at appeal is not cost effective due to the high cost of holding appeal tribunals and the associated administration costs.
g) The new Assessment procedure, whereby claimants are assessed by the use of a computer-generated questionnaire in which the Assessor uses a "tick box" technique, does not take into account the claimant's medical history as provided by their GP and/or Consultant.
Conference calls for:
a) All medical components of Work Capability Assessments to be undertaken by trained professionals.
b) An overhaul of the assessment process moving the focus to ensuring greater accuracy in assessment, a less stressful assessment process and that the disabled get the support they need.
c) Any new or revised assessment process to take into account the claimant's medical history as provided by their GP and/or Consultant.
d) The replacement of the arbitrary time limit on the length claimants can claim ESA if they are put into the work related activity group with the introduction of a time limit dependent on individual circumstances.
e) The assessment criteria to be made clearer so that claimants and society in general understand what constitutes an illness which is so debilitating as to warrant ESA being paid.
f) The appeal process to be sped up and for all claimants going to appeal to be given access to adequate representation.
I've spoken to George who is as concerned as we are about ESA and the changes due to come into place under the welfare reform bill. We will be working together to raise as much support for the motion as we can and to, hopefully, ensure that the motion passes.
The debate is scheduled for the Sunday of the Lib Dem conference (18th September) and I urge any and all of you with Lib Dem MPs to contact them about this and ask if they would like any further information on the issues surrounding ESA reform.
Today, an article on Lib Dem Voice supports the arguments raised by George and I'm delighted to see this issue gaining momentum amongst their party.
I'll be posting more on this and the steps we can take to support George, but for now, I just wanted to share the great news with you all.