Hello, is there anybody in there?
Just nod if you can hear me.
Is there anyone home?
Come on, now, I hear you’re feeling down.
Well I can ease your pain
And get you on your feet again.
Relax, I’ll need some information first.
Just the basic facts.
Can you show me where it hurts?
If the Department of Work and Pensions had started with the opening verse from the song ‘Comfortably Numb’ by Pink Floyd, they would almost certainly have come up with a fairer way of assessing people’s fitness to work than the Work Capability Assessment.
Citizens Advice Waverley is joining other bureaux across the country to call on ministers to ensure people appealing against fit for work decisions have access to free medical evidence to support their claim. Providing this evidence is non-NHS work and the only way GPs and clinicians can be paid for doing it is to charge the patient – who is often in no position to pay.
The findings of a survey of GP surgeries by Citizens Advice across the country (click on ‘Results of GP survey 14 May‘ for the summary report) shows that while almost half of them make a charge for providing people with medical records to support their appeals against fit for work assessments, a quarter only charge some groups of patients and the remaining quarter make no charge at all
Phil Davies, Chief Officer of Citizens Advice Waverley says that the research shows “the latest in a depressing line” of problems with Work Capability Assessments (WCA) which determine an individual’s eligibility for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
Davies went on, “A significant number of GPs are clearly trying to avoid charging people they recognise are in no position to pay. The results of our survey should be an alarm bell for everyone involved in helping people with sickness and disability to live independently. If doctors are unable to provide help due to a shortage of time or resources then the Government needs to step in and make sure the system works.”
The WCA has come under fire for unreliable assessments, expensive appeals procedures and long waits for applicants. During 2012/13, 43 per cent of WCA decisions were overturned in favour of claimants after an appeal.
Citizens Advice Chief Executive, Gillian Guy, said:
“The work capability system is not fit for work. The odds are stacked against sick and disabled people, who are paying a heavy health, emotional and financial price for ministers’ failure to get support right.
“People who turn to the state for help with illness have every right to expect that support will be there for them. Unfortunately far too many people face a double-edged sword of a poor assessment and a charge to appeal against it. The WCA process is putting pressure on GPs, charities and, most importantly, ordinary people in need of a helping hand. The buck stops with ministers who need to urgently fix this system.”
In the past year, Citizens Advice dealt with nearly half a million issues relating to ESA with almost 1.5 million problems reported since 2008.