Tomorrow – 9 April 2014 - Scope is giving evidence to the Work and Pensions Select Committee inquiry into the Work Capability Assessment and Employment and Support Allowance:
Anna Bird, head of policy at the disability charity Scope, said:
“It’s essential that we reform the fit for work test, and there is a move away from a fundamentally flawed system.
"The question we have to ask is how many disabled people have jobs? Nine in 10 disabled people work or have worked, yet only about 50% of disabled people have a job right now.
"We need a back-to-work system that works for disabled people.
"Disabled people are pushing hard to find jobs, but they face massive challenges when it comes to finding and staying in work - too often they don't get the right kind of support and workplaces are still not flexible enough.
"The test should be more than an exercise in getting people off of benefits. It should make sure disabled people get the specialist, tailored and flexible support they need to find and keep a job. We should be talking about getting a million more disabled people into work."
Notes to the editor:
Scope believes that it is essential to reform the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) in order to more accurately assess the wide-ranging barriers to work that disabled people face.
The current assessment places excessive weight on a medical view of disabled people’s capacity to perform set tasks and interact with the built environment. This focus does not relate to disabled people’s experience of trying to find work. As a result:
Too many disabled people are being wrongly assessed as ‘fit for work’ despite requiring significant levels of support to find, prepare for and secure paid employment;
Disabled people are being inappropriately referred onto the Work Programme and facing sanctions yet not receiving effective support to find work;
Scope recommends that the WCA should be replaced with a ‘Distance from Work’ test that:
Ensures that all of the social and environmental barriers to work that disabled people experience are considered as part of the assessment
Assesses disabled people’s support needs rather than medical capacity, and provides greater choice and control over the support they receive following assessment.
To achieve this, Scope has developed a set of ‘principles for reform’ that should be used to inform the development of a new assessment. The new test should:
Address disabled people’s actual barriers to work – rather than just looking at medical capability.
Understand what ‘fitness for work’ means – it’s about more than just what benefit you’re on.
Disabled people should be involved in designing the new test – disabled people are experts in their own support needs.