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Work Capability Assessment

Volume 563: debated on Monday 20 May 2013

1. What steps he plans to take to implement the recommendations made by Professor Harrington in his final report on the work capability assessment in November 2012. (155859)

As with each of Professor Harrington’s reports, we have adopted all recommendations to improve the process we inherited from the previous Government. We are in the process of implementing those recommendations.

The Minister will be aware that the rate of successful appeals has actually increased, which would appear to suggest that the reforms to the system are not yet working. Does he intend to investigate the claims made by Greg Wood, a former medical assessor for Atos, who said that the system was skewed against the claimant and made several serious allegations about how people’s claims were assessed?

As I said, we are in the process of implementing Professor Harrington’s recommendations. I would make the point to the hon. Lady, however, that when her party was in government, one in 10 people received the full employment support allowance, but as a consequence of our reforms three in 10 people now receive it, which demonstrates that the system is an improvement on the one that we inherited.

I thank the Minister for that answer. Does it not indicate that the Government take ESA very seriously and are being diligent in providing unconditional support to those who need it?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I want a system that gives the right support to the people who need it the most. We should also recognise that because of our reforms and improvements to the process, only 15% of fit-for-work decisions are successfully overturned.

The tribunal has published a list setting out the reasons appeals are successful. In most cases, it is a consequence either of oral evidence presented at the tribunal or newer evidence being presented.

The Minister will be well aware that there have been issues of public confidence in Atos ever since it was first commissioned to do this work by the last Government. Are the Government looking into and making progress on Professor Harrington’s alternative assessment process for those with hidden and fluctuating conditions, which is a very important area?

My hon. Friend raises an important issue. As a consequence of Professor Harrington’s recommendations, we are considering a range of different descriptors. We are working closely with medical experts and charities to assess those descriptors and will report later in the year on the effectiveness of the programme.