Work and Pensions Select Committee concludes that Government should learn the lessons of the WCA

Will the PIP assessments repeat the 'mistakes' of the notorious WCA?


A report published today by the Work and Pensions Select Committee concludes that the Government should learn the lessons of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), originally introduced in 2008.

The Government should not introduce Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessments nationally until it has satisfied itself, in the planned initial roll-out of the new assessment in a limited geographical area, that the assessment is empathetic and accurate. 

The Government’s Welfare Reform Bill includes measures to introduce a new benefit in 2013: the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) will replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for working-age claimants, to help meet the additional living costs of disabled people. A new eligibility assessment process will also be brought in.

Comment from the Chair

Commenting on the Government’s planned reforms, Committee Chair Dame Anne Begg MP, said:

“The reform was introduced on the basis of a Treasury assumption that by 2015-16 it would save 20% of the projected DLA budget by introducing a new assessment.

The Government’s own estimates show that 500,000 fewer people will receive support by 2015-16 compared to the situation if DLA for working-age claimants had continued.

Announcing the change against a background of budget cuts, and the previous negative experience which many people have had with the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), has created high levels of anxiety amongst DLA recipients.

The mistakes made with the WCA for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), as originally introduced in 2008, should not be repeated with PIP.

The assessment for PIP needs to be empathetic and avoid the mechanistic, box-ticking approach initially used in the WCA.”

Areas of Concern

The report highlights a number of areas of concern (Quotes are from the Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, Dame Anne Begg MP):

On the assessment criteria

  • The Committee is concerned that the current draft criteria on which the assessment will be based are still too reliant on a “medical model” of disability. Such a model may fail to take sufficient account of the impact of social, practical and environmental factors, such as housing and access to public transport, on disabled people’s ability to participate in society and the additional costs they therefore incur.

  • The Government has launched a formal consultation on the second draft of the criteria. The Committee believes that the Government should listen to the views of disabled people and their representative organisations and conduct a further trial before the criteria are adopted and the new assessment is introduced.

“The Government needs to be certain that the new assessment procedure is accurate and fair before it is introduced.

Otherwise, there is a risk that people with serious disabilities and health conditions will lose the money they rely on to meet the additional costs incurred as a result of their disability – costs such as maintaining wheelchairs, using specially adapted cars, or paying for help to ensure they can live independently.”

On the impact of reform

  • The Committee accepts that there are a number of arguments for reforming DLA; not least because it has become increasingly complex and is frequently misunderstood to be an out-of-work benefit.

“The Committee is concerned that the reform will be introduced before the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) understands the full impact and before the assessment used to decide whether claimants are eligible has been fully tested.

The Government has been slow to produce figures for the number of people likely to be affected by this change.

It is still not possible to tell which current recipients of DLA are likely to have their benefit withdrawn altogether or who will be eligible for PIP but at a lower rate.

We need more information on how the introduction of PIP is likely to affect the different groups of disabled people who currently receive DLA or who would have been entitled to it under the existing system.”

On the implementation process

  • The Committee welcomes the Government’s decision not to adopt a “big bang” approach to implementation of PIP and its announcement that the new system will be limited initially to a few thousand new claims per month in one geographical area.
  • The Committee believes it is important that the period prior to national roll-out is used to learn the early lessons which emerge from this small-scale implementation and to make changes quickly where necessary.
  • The Committee acknowledges that more reassessment of claimants is needed than has been the case under DLA but urges caution in moving from new claims to reassessing existing DLA claimants.

“As has been shown in the move from Incapacity Benefit to ESA, reassessment of existing claimants is even more complex than assessing new claims.

Reassessment of existing DLA claimants should only proceed once DWP is confident that the assessment process produces accurate results and is working properly for new claimants.”

On the assessment process and contracts

  • The Government has said that most claimants will be required to go through a face-to-face assessment. The Committee believes that evidence from medical professionals expert in a particular condition and with a detailed and longstanding knowledge of the claimant should be given due weight in the assessment process. 
  • The Committee recommends that, once the initial assessments for PIP have been completed in the first geographical area, the Government should look again at the value of face-to-face assessments for PIP claims where claimants’ conditions are severe and unlikely to change.
  • The budget for the contract to carry out the assessments is estimated at between £300 and £500 million over seven years. It is therefore important that DWP gets the contracting process with the private suppliers right.
  • The Government appears to have learned lessons from the problems arising from the monopoly supplier arrangement for the WCA. A further lesson should be learned in terms of linking payment of public funds to private companies directly to performance.
  • The PIP assessment contracts should stipulate that companies will only be paid for assessment reports that are “right first time” in the majority of cases. Tighter monitoring and regulation of private companies undertaking benefit assessments on behalf of DWP is required.

2 thoughts on “Work and Pensions Select Committee concludes that Government should learn the lessons of the WCA

  1. JJ says:

    They haven’t stopped the WCA’s ‘mistakes’ to date – why should any rational person be so gullible to believe that they will get the PIP assessments ‘right first time’? The fact is that they have moved the goalposts of what does and does not constitute a disability.

    Besides, this misses one crucial point:

    The parameters are now set so narrowly that hundreds of thousands of people, including blind folk, who were formerly recognised as having a disability for the sake of receiving extra state support will no longer be so classified!

    The Work and Pensions Select Committee is another toothless tiger. It’s great that they monitor and scrutinise the DWP’s works and educate the public – but they, like the House of Lords, are hardly a ‘check’ on the prerogative powers of the Executive to do just exactly as it wishes.

    We are living under an unelected dictatorship. That should be clear to anybody with half a brain by now. Nothing this Committee says or does will make the slightest difference in mitigating the barbarous suffering that this coalition is hell-bent on inflicting on those of us who have the misfortune to be sick and/or disabled!

    1. simmo says:

      The writing is on the wall but we the electorate are undecided whether we are sheep or ostriches or have been cajoled into believing we still live in a DEMOCRACY .The obvious façade of democracy started to be eroded when Thatcher smashed the UNIONS importing an American named McGregor . Thatcher spent £12 billion pounds ,£36,240,000,000.00 in today’s money to achieve her goal .Blair continued ,with his brazen disregard for cabinet meeting’s and held armchair discussions between him and his chosen advisers .Where were our representative MP’s to argue against this practice .Now we have Cameron and his fascist henchmen such as Schmidt and Grables ,Osborne and May who between them have decimated the welfare system ,made the rich ,richer and have shown scant regard for justice .The rule of Law should be executed on a level ‘playing field’ and not bits of EU law and British Law used in similar circumstances when it suits the Governments purpose. DEMOCRACY has been eroded ,things have gone too far ,there is only one vote open to us all – A NO VOTE ,let’s not support their BIG LIE .Would you buy something you didn’t want – why vote for something you know nothing about .Truth is not in a Politicians vocabulary .

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