Press release

Fourth independent review into the Work Capability Assessment: call for evidence launched

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

People with experience of the Work Capability Assessment are being encouraged to help with the fourth annual independent review into the assessment process.

People with experience of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) are today being encouraged to help with the fourth annual independent review into the assessment process.

The review – which is being carried out by senior occupational physician Dr Paul Litchfield – will continue the process of monitoring whether the assessment is effective in identifying people who could be helped back to work, while ensuring financial support goes to those who are too sick or disabled to seek employment.

In launching the call for evidence, Dr Litchfield will be considering both how the suggested improvements from previous reviews are working, and what further refinements can be made. Dr Litchfield is particularly interested in hearing how the WCA works for people with mental health conditions.

Dr Paul Litchfield said:

This fourth review is an appropriate time to review the impact of the changes that have been made to the WCA in recent years, including those recommended by my predecessor Professor Malcolm Harrington. I will also be considering if more can be done to ensure that the assessment process is both effective and perceived as being objective by all stakeholders.

I am keen to hear from people who have constructive and evidence based ideas for improvement. The WCA touches many lives and it is in the interest of all of us to try and make it as good as we can.

Employment Minister Mark Hoban said:

Helping people who can work into a job, while giving financial support to people who need it, is one of my top priorities. That is why it is so important that the Work Capability Assessment is as effective as possible.

Following the previous independent reviews we have already made considerable improvements to the assessment process, so this new review is a great opportunity to build on that progress.

This is the fourth in a series of 5 annual independent reviews into the Work Capability Assessment. The previous reviewer Professor Harrington made a number of recommendations, and in his third review found that as improvements were starting to have an impact, no fundamental reforms were needed to the current WCA. Over 40 recommendations have been, or are being, implemented including:

  • better communication with claimants, including phone calls from decision-makers to ensure all medical evidence has been provided

  • introducing 60 mental health champions into assessment centres to provide advice to Atos healthcare professionals

  • working with charities to test out new descriptors covering mental function and fluctuating conditions

  • simplifying the process for people undergoing treatment for cancer – reducing the need for face-to-face assessments and ensuring more are placed in the Support Group

More information

The call for evidence is intended for organisations and individuals who have information on how the Work Capability Assessment is operating, and what further changes that may be needed to improve the process.

The call for evidence will shortly be available online in a range of formats including audio, BSL, and Easy Read.

In addition, braille, large print, audio cassettes, CDs and Easy Read versions can also be provided in hard copy on request. Please contact wca.evidence@dwp.gsi.gov.uk

Details of the previous 3 independent reviews by Professor Harrington are available.

Biography – Dr Paul Litchfield, OBE OStJ FRCP FFOM

Paul Litchfield is Chief Medical Officer for BT Group plc and joined the company in 2001 having held senior posts in occupational medicine in both the public and private sectors. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and the Faculty of Occupational Medicine for which he is currently Chair of the Ethics Committee. In 2007 he was awarded the Order of the British Empire for services to occupational health and he is presently a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on health and wellbeing as well as being a project board member of the Wellness Alliance.

He has been active in the field of occupational health for some 30 years and since joining BT has created a comprehensive support framework for people with long term and fluctuating conditions. He has interacted with a number of Government departments on workplace health and in 2009 was co-author of the DWP sponsored independent review “Realising ambitions: Better employment support for people with a mental health condition”. He was lead author of the European Telecommunications sector guidelines on improving mental health published in 2010 and he is currently engaged with the European Commission on the impact of the economic downturn on workers’ health. Paul has published and lectured widely on workplace wellness, occupational mental health, sickness absence, hazard control, service delivery models and ethics in occupational health.

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