You are currently viewing our classic site, if you wish to visit the new site click here

Welcome for our call for reform of the Work Capability Assessment

One of the six strategic goals in our 2015-20 Strategic Plan is to 'maximise the impact of psychology on public policy'. To that end, yesterday (left to right) Richard Pemberton (Chair of our Division of Clinical Psychology), Professor Jamie Hacker Hughes (Society President) and Professor Peter Kinderman (Society President Elect) met Dr Lisa Cameron at Westminster. Dr Cameron is a Chartered Psychologist and the newly elected MP for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow.


Brian Dow, the director of external affairs at Rethink Mental Illness, has welcomed our new briefing paper calling for fundamental reform of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) process.

He says:

“This deeply flawed system is causing huge distress, and pushing many vulnerable people to the brink. Indeed, in a court case earlier this year, judges said that it puts people with mental illness at a ‘substantial disadvantage’.

“We welcome this report’s call for major changes to the process, including using assessors who have specialist knowledge of mental health. But to really fix this test so that it no longer discriminates against people with mental illness, we need to see much more extensive reforms.

“Another huge problem is that people have to gather their medical evidence from their GP or psychiatrist, to prove that they are too unwell to work. That can be an almost impossible task if you’re experiencing serious mental health problems, and so people are often being assessed without this crucial evidence being considered.

“Until these major problems are addressed, the system will continue to disadvantage people when they’re at their most vulnerable. We’re calling on the Government to overhaul the system from top-to-bottom, otherwise it will continue to punish many of the people it’s meant to support.”

You can download the briefing paper from our own website and also – on the same page - our call to action on the WCA. There we ask for:

  • a reliable, valid and fully researched method of assessment to replace the Limited Capacity for Work Questionnaire (ESA 50) and the face-to-face WCA;
  • training in assessment, scoring and interpretation for the test administrators;
  • specialist assessors to assess people with mental, cognitive and intellectual functioning difficulties;
  • supervision of the assessors from qualified clinicians with expertise in rehabilitation, assessment and interpretation;
  • referral routes to specialist assessment and support for those with psychological, cognitive and intellectual functioning difficulties;
  • appropriate periods of reassessment for people with long-term conditions, based on specialist advice to accurately reflect the prognosis.

Our President, Professor Jamie Hacker Hughes, said as the briefing paper was published:

“There is now a significant body of evidence that the WCA is failing to  assess people’s fitness for work accurately and appropriately, with people who are seriously physically and mentally ill being found fit for work and those with acute, transient episodes being assessed as lacking capacity and treated in the same way as those with a longer term prognosis.

“Appeals against the decisions are running at approximately 50 per cent and around half of those appeals are upheld. The cost to the taxpayer from this alone is £50m, with a similar amount being spent on reassessment.  The DWP is now under significant pressure to publish data on the number of people who have died whilst claiming out-of-work disability benefits.”