Ken O’Neill, Lothians’ newest independent candidate, is attending an event as part of today’s third National Day of Protest Against Benefits Cuts. Events are organised throughout the UK, with Edinburgh hosting a protest outside the local ATOS office. ATOS is the company responsible for Work Capability Assessment (WCA), a new and controversial computerised test that judges whether benefit claimants are genuinely sick or abusing the system.
Mr O’Neill said:
While benefit payments and social security issues are retained matters, I feel everyone must protest against a system that classifies genuinely sick and disabled people as fit for work. I have promised to campaign only on issues that the Scottish Parliament has remit over. However, as I want to see a Scotland where social justice is paramount, I can’t stand by and not join the protests. That’s why I’m attending the protest today, demanding that the UK Government stops giving computer generated test results precedence over the views of healthcare professionals and medical opinion.
The UK Government wants to see people who are on benefits back in work and providing for themselves. So do I, but I don’t want to see people who have terminal cancer found fit to work. The Work Capability Assessment is a tick-box system that is not able to cope with the nuances of many problems. The people conducting the tests have little, if any, medical training but are making decisions on someone’s suitability to work. The last time I checked, a person’s ability to hold down a job was not defined by such vague questions as whether they watch TV or listen to the radio.
The Department of Work and Pensions appointed Professor Malcolm Harrington, an occupational health specialist, to carry out an independent review of the WCA. In his report, published last November, Professor Harrington set out the system’s numerous shortcomings. He concluded that much work was need to make the WCA assessment “fairer and more effective.” He also warned that some conditions are more difficult to assess than others, including those with fluctuating symptoms and effects.
- An Independent Review of the Work Capability Assessment was published on 23 November 2010. Following the reports publication, the National Autistic Society, Mind and Mencap are due to propose improvements to the scheme later this month.
- To read more about Work Capability Assessment, read Amelia Gentleman’s Guardian article The Medical was an Absolute Joke.