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Work Capability Assessment

Volume 558: debated on Tuesday 5 February 2013

Some 103,000 appeals against decisions related to the work capability assessment were disposed of between April and September 2012. The estimated total associated cost was £23.5 million. In the previous financial year, 189,000 appeals were made, at an estimated total cost of £45 million.

I am grateful to the Minister for that answer. As he knows from his previous responsibilities, many of those appeals were a result of incorrect initial decisions in a work capability assessment. Given that Department for Work and Pensions figures that I have obtained show that more than 35,000 people in the support group have to repeat the WCA, including people with cancer, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and other progressive conditions, does the Secretary of State not accept that there would be less cost to his Department and therefore to the public if we stopped reassessing people who are not going to get better?

Of course, that is really a matter for the DWP. It is my job to provide an appeal route for those who wish to appeal, but the hon. Gentleman will be aware that before I left my previous job I asked officials to change how we reassessed people who had been through an appeal so that there was a more sensible length of time between appeal and reassessment.

Does the Secretary of State agree that it would be far more efficient throughout the entirety of government if the decisions that were made were right the first time? The work capability assessments have not delivered that since they were introduced by the previous Government. Will he talk to colleagues in the DWP to try to ensure that decision making is right first time in the interests of Government efficiency and of the people who undergo a lot of anxiety and worry as they go through the appeals process?

My hon. Friend will know that that was a matter of great concern to me in my previous job. None of us benefits from getting decisions wrong and a huge amount of effort has been put into getting them right. Of course, our Department must provide a route for appeals when they are necessary, but I can assure him that a huge amount of effort goes into trying to ensure that we get decisions right first time.