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Work Capability Assessments

Volume 654: debated on Monday 11 February 2019

5. If she will make it her policy that work capability assessments must be conducted by public sector employees. (909111)

I will allow the right hon. Gentleman to catch his breath, by saying that all people who carry out work capability assessments are fully qualified healthcare professionals, including nurses, paramedics, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and doctors. Most have two years’ post-registration experience, most have worked in the NHS and some combine working part-time in the NHS with being employed to undertake WCAs. As I said to the Select Committee during its recent inquiry on the WCA, future contracts will be open to all sectors.

I thank the Minister for her reply and for giving me time to recover my breath. As a constituency MP, I am sure that she, like me and many others, will know many constituents who feel that they have been ignored, bullied or interrogated during WCAs. Given that in the past the Ministry of Justice has had to spend some £100 million in arguing court cases and appeals, will she at least undertake to examine whether the public sector is not in fact better placed to carry out these assessments than private contractors, who have a very poor reputation?

Let me make it absolutely clear that I want to make sure that every person claiming a benefit from the Department for Work and Pensions has a really positive experience. We look at independent research on our claimant experience, and the vast majority of people are treated with respect and dignity, and the right decision is made the first time. However, one person’s poor experience is one too many, and we are constantly working with disabled people and stakeholders to improve our processes.

It is so important to discuss how we can help those who cannot work, but we should also recognise that 900,000 more disabled people are in work since 2014. Will the Minister outline what more she can do to get even more disabled people into work?

My right hon. Friend makes a really important point. We have a strong safety net for people who cannot work, but it is also wonderful that so many more people are able to work. I am delighted to announce that from 1 April we will uprate the Access to Work grant to just under £60,000 per person per year, which will provide tailor-made support to enable people to work.