Received from Caroline Lucas’s office
Since Caroline sent her email the DWP has put up a rich text version of the questionnaire but there are still no links to Easy Read, BSL Videos, Audio versions as there were in 2011.
To Chris Grayling, Minister for Employment, DWP.
No doubt you will be aware of the very valid concern that this year’s call for evidence on the Work Capability Assessment is much less accessible than last year’s.
I have pasted a copy of the email extract that has been sent to me that shows the concern about this matter.
A comparison of this year’s website with last year’s shows the DWP has taken away provision of links to the Easy Read, BSL Videos, Audio version, and has not provided a rich text response form. This seems to be going backwards and is both unacceptable and extremely disappointing.
For ease of reference and comparison the l inks to this year’s and last year’s websites are here:
Can you tell me the reason for this lowering of the care and consideration given to ensuring accessibility? I should also be grateful if you could take action to ensure that the same standard of accessibility that was offered in 2011 is offered now and that the 2012 Year 3 call web page is updated to provide the same level of accessibility as last year.
I am also concerned that this year, there is one less week to respond. Last year’s dates were 14 July – 16 Sept, this year it’s 12 July – 7 Sept. Can you tell me why the time has been shortened by a week? Given that the consultation dates are over the summer holidays, I would have thought that it would be logical to extend the time given to allow for the fact that people are likely to be away and so may have less opportunity to respond.
Given the concerns about accessibility and the shortening of the response time, I hope you will consider, at the very least, a one week extension for responses and preferably a longer extension to also take account of the number of days that a much less accessible website has been operating.
Given the short timescale involved, I should be grateful for your urgent response.
Cc Maria Miller MP, Minister for Disabled People
Lord Freud, Minister for Welfare Reform
Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA
MISSION ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE
Professor Harrington has made a call for evidence for his third review of the work capability assessment. He especially wants to hear from claimants about whether all the changes he has introduced mean that Atos and the DWP now deal with you more fairly and effectively.
Yet, astonishingly, there is nowhere for claimants to answer the questions he puts to you. Instead, the DWP have buried the questionnaire in a .pdf file which cannot be written to unless you own software costing hundreds of pounds.
The only way claimants can take part is either by printing off the document, and then writing the answers by hand and posting them to Harrington or by trying to copy, paste and reformat all the questions into another document to create their own questionnaire.
In addition, the call for evidence went out just before the summer holidays and ends
on September 7th, just as schools go back. This means that it has attracted very little attention from charities and other organisations that might otherwise be encouraging claimants to get involved.
So, to help you take part, Benefits and Work has done two things.
Make no mistake, this review matters.
The DWP and Atos have faced ever growing criticism of the WCA, with even GPs calling en masse for it to be scrapped and two TV investigations of the WCA being broadcast next week. Their response has always been that they are putting into place all Harrington’s recommendations and that, as a result the WCA is greatly improved.
If you agree that it has got better it’s important that you show your support for the changes to silence the critics. If you think it hasn’t, then it’s equally important that you make it as hard as possible for Grayling and Iain Duncan Smith to use Harrington as a defence.
There’s a series of questions about issues such as whether telephone and written
communications have improved, whether medical examinations are better and whether the WCA is now fair and effective. There’s also an ‘anything else’ box you can use to address issues like recording medicals and waiting times, for example.
Harrington particularly wants to hear from claimants who have had more than one WCA, but he does also want opinions on fairness and effectiveness from claimants who have only had one.
And because personal independence payment, which begins replacing DLA from April of next year, is assessed using a very similar system to the WCA, whatever advantages or failings there are in the WCA will almost certainly be reproduced for DLA to PIP transfers. Because of the dramatic effect that DLA/PIP in particular has on living standards, your evidence could literally change people’s lives.
So, if you’ve had a WCA, please complete the questionnaire. And if you can post
details on forums you use, forward this newsletter to a friend and ask any charities
you’re involved with to encourage members to take part as well, we can ensure that
Harrington hears the truth.