‘The current assessment process is not fit for purpose and is failing too many disabled people’

6 March 2019

By Husna Mortuza

Caxton House signYesterday I headed over to East London to hear the speech from Amber Rudd on disability, and in particular benefits assessments.

The first thing to note is that it has been some time since a Secretary of State gave a speech on this important issue.

It was pleasing to see this issue receiving some attention, particularly in the context of the huge concerns with the current system that have been continually raised by organisations like Leonard Cheshire alongside many other disability charities, Disabled Peoples Organisations (DPOs) and thousands of disabled people themselves.

Positive development 

The announcement that has got most of the coverage relates to the fact that hundreds of thousands of disabled pensioners will no longer have to undergo repeat assessments for disability benefits.

This is a really positive development, but obviously will not change anything for a large section of the population who are not of pension age.

Another measure announced by the Secretary of State was trying to bring together the WCA and PIP assessments. The huge problems with the WCA and PIP assessments is something we have been raising for a long time.

Whether a single, longer, assessment for both PIP and WCA is a good idea or not could be argued either way, what is in no doubt is that if the assessment is bad, then the consequences will potentially be even more serious as they would affect both benefits as opposed to just one.

This is concerning when you consider the scale of successful appeals which shows that the current assessment process is not fit for purpose and is failing too many disabled people.

What is crucial therefore is that these damaging assessments should be reformed quickly.

A positive step

There was very welcome news about radically scaling back the extent of conditionality and sanctions which currently affect disabled people (even if the pace of this change looks like it will be incredibly slow).

This, taken alongside the more conciliatory tone of the whole speech is a positive step and hopefully will reduce the unhelpful vilification of disabled people in receipt of benefits as ‘scroungers’.

If Amber Rudd’s warm words are translated into concrete changes on the ground then in time this may help disabled people to have more trust in the Department for Work and Pensions.

Our recent report ‘Reimagining the workplace’ contains a number of recommendations that we will continue to push for in our continuing mission to ensure that disabled people can live, learn and work with independence. There is still a long long way to go.

Husna Mortuza is our Head of Policy, Public Affairs and Campaigns.

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