After over 700 comments and years of passionate campaigning, this post will outline the issues I and other Spartacii intend to discuss with the Minister, Mark Hoban on Tuesday. Thank you so much. 700 comments is a credible consultation with a real mandate. There has been some discussion over whether this meeting should take place at all. However, after scouring social media last night, I saw much more support for engagement than refusing to engage.
Many, many people go their own way in campaigning. Quietly, and secretly behind the scenes. They fear exactly the kind of backlash I've had this week. These meetings are happening day in and day out. You just don't know about them. People don't publicise them, they don't ask what you think and they don't involve you in the process. Spartacus will never do that. It will always be YOUR voice. Paid by no-one, beholden to no-one, influenced by no-one but you.
This list will almost certainly cause controversy too. We have 45 minutes. There is no human way we can mention all of the vital things that are wrong with ESA and WCAs and why they need to change. It's impossible. Every time I wrote the list, someone reminded me of something else.
We have ALL campaigned on these issues. We ALL want them changed and we ALL agree they would make WCAs less harmful. The minister already knows all about them, MPs, journalists and campaigners have explained repeatedly. There is absolutely no reason why he should listen to Spartacus any more than he listens to anyone else. But that's no reason not to try.
Spartacus works for political change. We always have. From working with the Lib Dems to change their policy (incidentally, we persuaded them to vote to ABOLISH WCAs. That became Lib Dem policy) to fighting for amendments to the welfare reform bill. From lobbying parliament to compiling detailed reports and taking the government to court over PIP, they ALL attempt political change.
It's inevitable that occasionally, we won't all agree. That's fine. We don't have to. But we do have to respect the right of anyone to campaign in any way they choose. It's called democracy.
So, here are the issues we'll take forward based on YOUR recommendations and suggestions and the things that have upset you the most over the years. In some ways, they may not all be the most important (though I believe they are) but they are often issues the government have pledged to change already but have been slow to do so. Some are relatively easy for the government to implement, meaning there can be no true objection to them. Most are relatively low cost as we all know this government will refuse to spend a penny as an excuse to resist change.
But they are all vital and if they were all implemented fully as government often pledged to do, the WCA would be a much safer and less terrifying experience. If that's not worth fighting for, I'm afraid I fail utterly to see why.
Please try to be a little gentle over things we may not have included.
-Mandatory Reconsideration – Assessment phase payments MUST continue through MR. DWP MUST set a time limit. Sheila Gilmore has laid a lot of the groundwork for us on this so we shouldn't need to go into as much detail. the time period for submitting a WCA MUST be set back to 6 weeks. 4 weeks is not enough to collect all the evidence we need.
-Accessible Centres – No more excuses. New centres MUST replace the 29 inaccessible centres.
-Set Min Limits on Re-assessment – 3,6 and 9 month reassessment periods are ludicrous and only slow the system down. For us AND for government.
-Mental Health Champions – In EVERY centre. They promised this but there are still only 60 - less than half of all centres, It has to happen now. Why can’t it/hasn’t it so far & what needs to be done to achieve it?
-Division Cognitive and Physical point scoring as per ESASOS A person MUST be able to score under both physical AND cognitive descriptors again. Separating them is totally unworkable.
-Recording Assessments – Every assessment, every time, just like interviews, call centres etc. This would show a real commitment to transparency and change. Again, they've promised, no more excuses.
-EBR (Evidence Based Review) – New descriptors NOW. 5 years is too long, Too many people have suffered. We were due an update on this months ago. Not one more person should go through a test using descriptors that are biased against them. In this we will also discuss the MHRN case.
GPs and medical evidence - The minister has maintained from the start that the more medical evidence a claimant has, the more accurate the outcomes. He MUST ensure that GPs are able to provide this evidence and not allowed to refuse. Assessors MUST take all evidence fully into account, looking at GPs/Consultants evidence and claim forms first, before considering a WCA
So, that's eight things. There are 800 more. As it is, we will have less than 5 minutes per issue. I really hope that you think this is a good list or at least as good as it can be in the circumstances. I hope you think it represents what you told us faithfully. If all of these changes were implemented in good faith, many thousands fewer would suffer. That has to be a goal worth fighting for.