1. Welcome by the Chair
The Chair welcomed everyone to the meeting and introductions
2. Guest Speaker: Minister of State for Disabled People, Mike
This position has been promoted from a junior position to a
Minister of State position with an expanded role: it is intended
to co-ordinate disability policy across government so very
different from previous role and includes health and safety.
The Minister reported that Atos are delivering the Work
Capability Assessment (WCA) contract but also part of the new
PIP contract which is being phased in (rolled out in North
England today for new entrants).
There will be a shift with 97%
of assessments now be face-to-face as opposed to 6% previously.
At present there are contractual discussions being undertaken
with Atos re WCA but The Minister is not in a position to
discuss the detail of this at present.
The Minister reported
that they are very conscious about issues relating to who is
being asked to come in for reassessment.
He also acknowledged
the challenges with fluctuating conditions (such as M.E.) and
hidden illness, as highlighted in Dr Paul Litchfield’s Year 4
independent review of the WCA.
The Minister stated it is taking
time but things are moving forward. The Minister attended a WCA
tribunal where he was able to experience first-hand the
difficulties that individuals subject to the process have.
positive development that has occurred in the last couple of
months is that they are now getting feedback from judges.
Some of the questions
that were asked have been added here -
Question from the Countess of Mar:
The Countess passed on a letter from an individual outlining
his experience with WCA from assessment to tribunal (appeal
upheld; placed in support group) and then almost immediately, he
received communication to incorrectly inform him about being
placed in the WRAG. This highlights the experience of others
alongside the waste of money and capacity involved.
Answer: The Minister responded that there are clearly too
many people that are going to tribunal and shouldn’t. There is
also an issue of evidence being made available too late (e.g. GP
letter). The evidence base from experts needs to be used better
and at an earlier point to inform a decision and to not require
people to come back for tribunal or further assessment. A
consultant’s letter alongside a GP’s should provide an evidence
base and therefore not require a face-to-face assessment as it
is not the health care assessor’s role to diagnose.
The Countess highlighted that where there are people
experiencing severe M.E. they should not be placed in the
Work-Related Activity Group. The Minister responded that
contractual issues are now being addressed and there is a flow
through issue that is being looked at.
Question from Annette Brooke MP:
There appears to be a communication gap
between DWP and Atos and this has been specifically highlighted
through the contact and communication that she and the Countess
have experienced in relation to how often a person should be
Answer: The Minister stated that the decision-maker is responsible for
deciding this based on the recommendation made by the health
care assessor (which is based on the face-to-face assessment).
James added that it is at the department’s discretion about when
it goes back to Atos. If the case has recently been through
tribunal, it is the DWP’s discretion as to when a person is
called back. Changes have been made to the process following
recommendations from the EBR group.
Annette had the impression that decision makers were being
more alert to the fact that they should be responsive to recent
Question from Phillida (Invest in ME):
Answer: The Minister highlighted that if there are difficulties with GP
support, care or diagnosis then there is an issue; he will raise
this with the Health Minister/others as it clearly creates
Furthermore, it creates issues in relation to
how we actually move forward issues with WCA, provision of
evidence and impact with tribunals given that some individuals
are not able to obtain the evidence they require.
means that there is potentially a tribunal with late evidence
being provided or further assessments required.
acknowledged that there is a need to explore how we get GPs to
refer and ensure that those that need evidence from GPs are
provided with it.
GP training is also absolutely critical as we
move forward with Clinical Commissioning Groups.