Tuesday 22 February 2011

ESA Fails My Test, Says Its Designer

Amelia Gentleman is becoming something of a hero in disability campaigning circles, as she publishes article after well-researched article on social issues affecting disabled people, and especially the Government's reforms to welfare. Her latest masterpiece in the Guardian is a report on Prof. Paul Gregg, designer of the Work Capability Assessment which decides eligibility for the new Employment Support Allowance, who says that: "The test is badly malfunctioning. The current assessment is a complete mess," which is hardly a vote of confidence.

Many disabled people will feel that this is confirmation of what has already become apparent in the test's failures in dealing with vulnerable individuals and its poor performance in trials. The article reports that: "Since the beginning of 2009 more than 240,000 cases contesting the result of the health tests have been accepted for tribunal hearings and, of the cases they hear, tribunal judges overturn about 40% of test findings." The Government should now retreat on the nationwide rollout of ESA, which begins next month.

Prof. Gregg says that: "In the first trial, the system did not work. We need to trial the new, proposed, reformed system to check and prove that it works and avoids the serious stress and misclassification of people that we have already seen, before we start implementing it on a large and vulnerable population," he said. "The test so far has caused a huge amount of anguish to the people who have gone through it. We need to have something that is working accurately before we apply it nationally. We shouldn't roll this out until we have something that is working."

The Broken of Britain agree wholeheartedly with this last sentence, and plan to use it as we oppose ESA as it is structured. This gives added impetus to the many voices calling for the ESA system to be fundamentally re-examined, and will be important as The Broken of Britain prepare to oppose anti-disabled provisions in the Welfare Reform Bill.

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