Goodbye, ‘fit for work’ tests – but what comes next could be worse

<span>Photograph: David Harrison/Alamy</span>
Photograph: David Harrison/Alamy

Frances Ryan is quite right (Good riddance to the work capability assessment, the cruellest social policy of modern times, 22 March). The work capability assessment (WCA) is awful. But its proposed successor looks even worse.

The WCA has features that it is important to retain. One is the right of appeal to an independent tribunal. By contrast, there is no judicial oversight of decisions about work-related requirements made by work coaches; the new proposals leave claimants at the mercy of Department for Work and Pensions officials with no medical training. Another is the regulation whereby someone who does not otherwise satisfy the criteria can be exempted from work if there is a substantial risk that working would harm their health. There is no equivalent provision in the rules for personal independence payment (Pip), the disability benefit that would serve as the passport to the health-related top-up.

The government’s proposals leave many questions unaddressed: about people too ill to work who don’t meet the criteria for Pip; people on contributory benefit, rather than universal credit; people with short-term conditions, not covered by Pip. Confusions and omissions abound. I can think of better uses for white paper.
Patricia de Wolfe

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