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Employment Minister Hoban forced to rethink Atos after critique from Spartacus

At a meeting with Mark Hoban, the ‘work capability assessment’ (WCA) Minister, a delegation of disability activists and I presented him with a systematic catalogue of all the main weaknesses, faults and failures of the whole WCA process. He was told in no uncertain terms that under the Evidence-Based Review new descriptors are needed now since not one single more person should have to go through a test with descriptors biased against them.

He was told he must ensure that GPs can provide evidence and are not allowed to refuse, and that this evidence must be taken fully into account before considering a WCA. He was told that there must be mental health champions in every centre (not less than half as at present), that every assessment should be recorded, that assessment phase payments must continue throughout mandatory reconsideration, and that new centres must replace the 29 centres still inaccessible.

He was also told that 3-9 month reassessment periods were frankly absurd. And he was told that a person undergoing a WCA must be able to score under both physical and cognitive descriptors again since separating them was clearly unworkable.

Hoban listened attentively, though his replies to some of these points seemed rather unconvincing, which on several occasions he was not allowed to get away with by Sue Marsh, who led for Spartacus and argued the case passionately. It was also put to him that many of the disability groups wanted outright abolition of the WCA, though he waived that aside.

Nevertheless it was made clear to him that the current WCA format was universally regarded as fundamentally at fault, and he did let slip in an unintended aside that the government’s ‘current relationship with Atos was not very good’, by which of course he meant there was a thundering great row going on behind the scenes. At the end of the 45 minute meeting Hoban was asked to agree to another early meeting if the disability community could come together to produce an alternative to the WCA. He responded by arguing that it would have to be very robust and meet a high bar in terms of performance, but he certainly didn’t reject the idea out of hand.

Significantly, today MPs were invited to undergo a mock WCA themselves at the House of Commons where they were put through the type of questioning and demands for evidence used in WCAs in order to determine whether they scored enough to be fit to be an MP. Quite a number of MPs attended, but the great majority (including me) failed miserably to get anywhere near scoring the number of points necessary. It did make MPs, and certainly me, a lot more aware of what it is like to be subject to this kind of ordeal which, not to put too fine a point on it, is set up to make you fail.


  1. Rob the cripple says:

    I’m glad to hear the ATOS and Tories are at loggerheads, because the love affair between Labour and ATOS was beyond a joke.

    The DWP now review all cases with are appealed, now here is mine done last year, ATOS doctor patient is obviously severely disabled with bowel and bladder dysfunction and chronic pain. 45 points given, at the back pages he wrote I do not think this patient will work in the short term or long term.

    So I would not be able to work short term or long term, I failed the test according to ATOS and was placed onto the WRAG, I phoned up the DWP who said look your claim is going to review now, we have picked up on issues, six weeks later I was told ATOS decision had been over turned.

    So why was I failed obviously each time a person is failed ATOS is paid to take the person through the appeal procedures for which they are paid extra the more people failed the more money is made, we brought this up with Labour and they just totally ignored anything and everything we said.

    PIP’s is even bloody worse for god sake a wheelchair is classed as being the same as having legs, using crutches means basically I’m fine no problems pain what is a bit of pain all in ones head, breathlessness come out just take a mint .

    This is all about cuts labour would state as Miliband has they cannot afford to spend money after the recession and depression, welfare reforms was of course brought in way before the Tories took power it came in during the Labour party in 1997. it has nothing to do with recession or depression it about hard working middle class Britain not liking the welfare state.

    Thank god the Tories took soldiers who are injured out of PIP’s labour would not have.

    Vote Labour get what a Tory party worse then the real thing.

  2. ShirleyKnott says:

    I’m at a complete loss as to *what* part of the WCA actually assesses an individual’s ability to worK?! It seems to assess certain physical/mental functions – but failing can hardly show an ability to regularly attend a workplace (often having had to use public transportation) or spend 8 hrs a day carrying out paid tasks without health being compromised. How does walking x no, of metres show one can work full time? How does shuffling about from point a to point b in one’s own home prove capability to work? The whole darn thing needs to be totally overhauled. Shame on Labour for having invented the stupid thing!

  3. Rob the cripple says:

    That maybe so but I think the country would cheer labour for bringing it in they did in fact.

    Then again remember Miliband speech.

    I knocked on a door a disabled man came to the door, I knew straight away he could do something, I went next door to his neighbour and he confirmed what I thought.

    yea well tell that to the employers mate, which labour did not do.

    I looked I saw I knew, but I did not ask.

    Most people who have cancer do not look ill, same with HIV or any other illness, but the secret is Miliband did not ask and that’s been labour’s problem it tell us it does not ask us.

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