Review: An Independent Review of the Work Capability Assessment – Year Three

The review had the following recommendations for areas of work that should be continued:

– Continuing to improve communications with claimants: changes so far are having a positive impact on the claimant experience, although increased contact with claimants can prove difficult for both individuals and Decision Makers.

– Continuing to improve communications within Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) operations: DWP is a large Department but effective communications between Decision Makers and Personal Advisers are vital if the whole organisation is to understand both the overarching purpose of the WCA and why decisions have been reached at an individual level. The extension of a pilot aimed at smoothing the transition between the WCA and work is welcomed. Rapid implementation is needed if this proves successful.

– Continuing to improve the face-to-face assessment: DWP should monitor Atos performance more closely. Indeed the quality and depth of the relationship between DWP and Atos remains variable at a local level. The opportunity for Decision Makers and Atos healthcare professionals to discuss individual cases will help ensure quality decisions, but these relationships take time to build.

– Establishing quality dialogue between DWP and First-tier Tribunals: while progress has, finally, been made here there remains much more to do if the whole assessment process is to become transparent and accountable.

– Keeping the Decision Maker central to the assessment process and providing them with all the further documentary evidence they need to get the decision ‘right first time’: shifting the emphasis from the independent face-to-face assessment to a more holistic approach will help improve both the accuracy and the integrity of the whole process. Decision Makers are being empowered, but they need to have access to as much information as possible on which to make their decisions and to be given latitude to make these decisions ‘right first time’.

– Continually monitoring changes to the WCA: the Review has seen, first hand, the changes that are beginning to take root. Considerable disquiet remains, and this cannot be ignored. Continuing to monitor the implementation of the Review’s recommendations, and their impact, is key to communicating improvements as they happen.

– Completing work underway on the descriptors: momentum must be maintained to make changes to the cancer treatment provisions and to complete, evaluate and act on the findings of the evidence-based review. This is a far from straightforward process – the work to date is encouraging and must be followed through.

Overall, in light of the positive progress made and the need to do more to embed progress made, this Review has deliberately made fewer recommendations than in previous years. Consolidation and monitoring are the vital next stages: at this stage there is no evidence for a further period of radical reform.

Click here for a full version of the report (pdf format).