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Work Capability Assessments

Volume 541: debated on Monday 5 March 2012

18. What progress has been made on the implementation of the recommendations in Professor Harrington’s review of work capability assessments. (97708)

We are continuing to implement the reforms recommended to us by Professor Malcolm Harrington. He argued for a number of changes in his first report, all of which have been implemented, and we are in the process of implementing the changes recommended in his second report.

I thank the Minister for his response. One third of employment and support allowance claimants have mental health conditions and a significant number of initial work capability assessment decisions are overturned on appeal when further evidence becomes available about their condition. What action is the Minister taking to ensure that medical evidence is taken on board at a very early stage in order to prevent a number of appeals?

This is one area where we have worked very hard to secure a change. A large amount of new evidence was indeed appearing only at the appeal stage and that was one of the key things that Professor Harrington suggested we address. We are now bringing in medical evidence much earlier—at the start of the process, when the decisions are taken or when a reconsideration is taking place in Jobcentre Plus. There are now few circumstances in which new evidence appears at the appeal stage, and that is really important.

I am sure that the Minister will be aware of the research undertaken by Citizens Advice Scotland for its report “From pillar to post”, which highlighted some issues that Professor Harrington should be considering in his further reports. Will the Minister meet me and representatives of Citizens Advice Scotland to discuss those concerns so that he can discuss them with Professor Harrington before he undertakes his third review?

I have many meetings with people involved in these matters. I suggest that it is better for the hon. Gentleman and Citizens Advice Scotland to meet Professor Harrington directly to raise those concerns, rather than for me to be a middleman. We listen carefully to the recommendations he makes, and I would be happy to arrange that meeting for the hon. Gentleman.