Press release

New appointment to WorkCapability Assessment independent review scrutiny group

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

Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the MS Society, has been appointed to the independent scrutiny group overseeing improvements to the WCA.

Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the MS Society, has been appointed to the independent scrutiny group overseeing improvements to the Work Capability Assessment (WCA).

He will provide a voice for the charity sector on the scrutiny group overseeing Professor Malcolm Harrington’s third independent review of the WCA. The review is helping ensure the assessment - a vital part of the Government’s reforms of incapacity benefit - becomes fairer and more effective.

Mr Gillespie, who has been chief executive of the MS Society since 2006, replaces Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, who left the group last month.

Employment Minister Chris Grayling said:

I’m delighted Simon has agreed to join the scrutiny group, which plays a really important role in improving the Work Capability Assessment.

We’ve already acted on the recommendations from our independent reviewer Professor Harrington, and are continually striving to make the process better and fairer. I look forward to Simon helping us in that process.

One and a half million incapacity benefit claimants are currently undergoing a WCA to find whether they are fit to work or entitled to Employment and Support Allowance. People applying for ESA for the first time also go through the assessment.

The Department for Work and Pensions has already accepted the recommendations made in two reviews by Professor Harrington to improve the assessment. A third review to suggest further improvements is currently being undertaken.

Mr Gillespie said:

The disability sector wholeheartedly supports the principle that benefits should only go to those who really need them. But we want to ensure the system works effectively for genuine claimants, and does not cause unnecessary stress and anxiety for disabled people.

That’s why it’s more important than ever that the independent review of the WCA system is scrutinised properly, and that the voice of disabled people is heard. The MS Society has been vocal on this issue for some time, and I’m pleased our expertise in this area has been recognised through this appointment.

The independent review needs to be a vehicle for real, tangible improvement of the system to ensure fair outcomes that properly recognise the barriers disabled people face. I look forward to working closely and constructively with Professor Harrington, the rest of the scrutiny group and the DWP to ensure this happens.

Notes for Editors

Simon Gillespie joined the MS Society as Chief Executive in July 2006. He oversees the strategy for the charity, which has around 38,000 members, 9,000 volunteers and 300 branches across the UK, all working to support the 100,000 people with MS.

Simon previously worked as Head of Operations at the Healthcare Commission, where he was responsible for the inspection of NHS and independent healthcare facilities in England. From 2000 to 2004, Simon was Director of Operations at the Charity Commission, modernising the regulation and support of the 180,000 registered charities across England and Wales. Before that, his earlier career was with the Royal Navy, including command of HMS Sheffield, two years advising Government ministers on policy and finally the role of Chief of Staff to the United Kingdom Task Force.

Simon has extensive experience of charity and non-profit governance, and as a non-executive director/trustee. He is currently the non-executive chair of Neurological Commissioning Support (NCS), a joint venture between the MS Society, the MND Association and Parkinson’s UK. He is a Trustee and Treasurer of the Neurological Alliance, a trustee of the Institute for Security and Resilience Studies at University College London, and a lay member of the General Medical Council’s Fitness to Practice panels. He is also chair of the Care and Support Alliance, which comprises over 50 major organisations representing older and disabled people.

Simon holds masters’ degrees in: Philosophy and Political Science; Business Administration; and International Relations.

To arrange an interview with Simon Gillespie or for any media enquiries relating to the MS Society, please contact the MS Society press office on 020 8438 0782 or 020 8438 0840. For out of hours or urgent enquiries, try 07909 851401.