The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is facing questions over why it failed to release the results of a pilot project that was supposed to correct a fatal flaw in its “fitness for work” test.DWP had promised a judge that the pilot project would test ways of making the work capability assessment (WCA) safer for claimants with mental health conditions and learning difficulties, by ensuring that the necessary medical evidence was collected from their healthcare professionals.Many disabled people claiming out-of-work disability benefits have been unable to prove they could not work because the WCA process has been focused on an unfair and discriminatory face-to-face assessment, and they were unable to provide enough written evidence to back up their cases.Ministers promised a tribunal appeal hearing two years ago that they would carry out the pilot project, but nine months after it ended they do not appear to have passed on its findings to the lawyers representing the two disabled people who took the long-running legal case, or even informed them that the pilot project had finished.The Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN), the user-led group that was behind the legal case, said this week that this apparent failure was “extraordinary”.Denise McKenna, MHRN’s co-founder, said this suggested that DWP had not addressed the WCA’s fatal flaws.She said: “I am not confident that what they have come up with is going to be robust enough, that it’s going to include other medical evidence in enough cases.“The other thing is I am not confident that they will pay any heed to the medical evidence anyway. They just don’t want to take account of medical evidence.“They just want everything to be resting on that Mickey Mouse interview, that Mickey Mouse assessment.”MHRN and other activists believe that many disabled benefit claimants – particularly those with mental health conditions – have lost their lives because of DWP’s failure to collect all the medical evidence necessary when assessing whether people were eligible for employment and support allowance (ESA).The legal case had concluded that the WCA discriminated against some disabled people with mental health conditions and learning difficulties.DWP has now admitted that it completed this pilot project – which took place in Glasgow – last May.DWP only admitted that the pilot project had been completed in a response to a Disability News Service (DNS) story about Mark Wood, a disabled man who starved to death after he was found “fit for work”.His mother, Jill Gant, had questioned why DWP had still failed to act on the issue of further medical evidence, nearly seven years after a coroner in another case had warned ministers that they needed to address the problem, or risk other disabled people losing their lives.She had tried for two years to persuade DWP ministers Mark Harper and Priti Patel to act.Wood died in the summer of 2013, more than three years after the coroner’s letter to DWP ministers.His mother blames his death on the failure of DWP and Atos assessors to collect the medical evidence needed to demonstrate that he was eligible for ESA.A DWP spokesman said the department had updated guidance for the assessors who carry out WCAs – now carried out by the US company Maximus, rather than Atos – but that he could not say how the guidance had changed.He said: “The outcomes have been that we’ve updated our general practices and guidance for assessments, which fits in with our ongoing process to ensure the WCA provides the right service for claimants.“The new guidance provides examples of situations when further evidence should be requested by healthcare professionals in the WCA process, especially for people with a mental health condition.”But he said he could not release the new version because the department was “currently in the midst of discussing guidance and the training for healthcare professionals with our provider”.
Tags:Labour Party /Labour /TSSA /Fleur Anderson /wandsworth /Candida Jones /People’s Vote /Bonnie Craven /Leonie Cooper / Selection meeting is tomorrow. Thanks for all the support so far. I’ll campaign with all #Labour members, local residents, and community groups to win in Putney, Southfields and Roehampton. We can work together to rebalance our society in favour of the many and not the few. pic.twitter.com/LgfMAQn787— Fleur Anderson (@CllrFleur) November 23, 2018 Labour members in Putney have chosen local councillor Fleur Anderson as their parliamentary candidate in the next election.The Wandsworth councillor’s success will be seen as a victory for those campaigning within Labour for a fresh Brexit referendum, as she is a firm ‘people’s vote’ supporter. Putney voted heavily to remain in the 2016 public vote.Anderson, who co-founded Wandsworth Welcomes Refugees, is now expected to step down as joint deputy leader of Wandsworth Labour.The new PPC was congratulated on Twitter by south London MPs Marsha de Cordova and Dr Rosena Allin-Khan.I’m honoured and delighted to have been selected to be the next #Labour Parliamentary candidate for #Putney. Thanks to @LeonieC @candidaj and @BonnieCraven for such a positive campaign. @LondonLabour @PutneyLabour pic.twitter.com/hmUea6uWKm— Fleur Anderson (@CllrFleur) November 24, 2018The result came as a surprise to many local activists. Bonnie Craven was understood to have been the Labour leadership’s preferred candidate. A trade union officer at TSSA with experience of running as an MP, Craven was backed by many frontbenchers including Angela Rayner, Richard Burgon, Barry Gardiner, Andrew Gwynne, plus Chris Williamson, Emma Dent-Coad and Owen Jones.The other shortlisted candidates, Wandsworth councillors Leonie Cooper and Candida Jones, are both ‘people’s vote’ supporters. Cooper was backed by Assembly Members such as Len Duvall and Florence Eshalomi, while co-deputy group leader Jones was endorsed by London mayor Sadiq Khan.Last year, former Lambeth mayor Neeraj Patil slashed Greening’s majority from 10,180 to 1,554 votes, making Putney a marginal seat and a key target for Labour at the next election.Full House for our selection meeting fantastic turnout. pic.twitter.com/McPhWirynb— Putney Labour Party (@PutneyLabour) November 24, 2018
SAINTS face Widnes and Castleford in important friendlies over the next two weeks with their eyes set firmly on the Betfred Super League opener with Leeds.Keiron Cunningham’s men will lock horns with the Rhinos on Thursday February 9 – and it’s a clash the head coach is looking forward to.“At this time of year it is all about us and making sure we are heading in the right direction on and off the field,” he said. “There’s only so much you can take out of pre-season and Leeds will be in a similar position. What we do know is that they will be fit after having lots of injuries last year.“But we aren’t a bad side ourselves and with the recruits we have brought in we are a better side than last season.“We wouldn’t want a better opening to the season. We want to sink our teeth into the comp from round one and therefore there isn’t a juicer tie than Leeds at the Totally Wicked Stadium.”Cunningham is expected to run with a large squad for Sunday’s clash before whittling it down to around 21 or 22 for the game with Castleford.Tickets for those games – and the opener – are now on sale from the Ticket Office, by calling 01744 455 052 or online here.