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Criticism of WCA by Repetitive Strain Charity ‘RSI Action’

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http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200809/cmselect/cmworpen/memo/decision/ucm0702.htm

Recommendations that RSI Action would like the committee to consider.

· That the WCA should reflect the intent of the primary legislation, and focus on work-based activities.

· That DWP should seriously consider developing a model to provide objective links between 21st-century working activities and the WCA.

· Improved guidance for the claimant should be developed, identifying the work-based nature of the WCA and the need to consider reliability repeatability and safety.

· The medical report form (ESA85) should be provided to the claimant as a matter of course at the assessment, to ensure that the claimant’s information has not been misrepresented.

· Health care professionals and decision-makers should be trained and provided with suitable information on all relevant medical conditions. The training material and information should be publicly available, and DWP should seek agreement with relevant charities and relevant medical experts.

· Healthcare professionals in decision-makers should recognize the expertise that disabled claimants have in their own medical conditions, when considering the impact of the claimants disability.

· The DWP and ministers should focus on reducing departmental error rather than fraud.

· The intense focus on benefit fraud should be reduced as it is causing victimisation of the most vulnerable in society.

The most important observation that they make is about the missing definition of work within a process in which it plays such a significant part. The WCA is meant to determine people’s capacity to perform work, but neither ATOS nor the DWP use the term in anything other than an abstract way. This of course is in stark contrast to the attempt to reduce illness to a series of intricately specific ‘actual’ functional capabilities. But work, also, is composed of actual functions, and much much more diverse in what it demands from a worker than the levels of activity to which the WCA refers. Work is not generic, it is very specific for the person doing it.

Work too is not carried out according to the worker’s capacity, it is carried out to meet the requirements of the employer. As the RSI Action memorandum states there has to be an acknowledgement of 21st century working practices.  Inherent within the ‘capability’ descriptors is an assumption that work is something people do in offices at their own pace, as there is an emphasis on ‘sitting’, pressing buttons/keyboards, and use of such everyday activities as watching tv, reading etc to prove some capacity for work.

What about the kitchen porter who has to endure standing for hours, lifting heavy piles of plates, commercial pans, having to clean down work surfaces at speed and mop floors at the end of their shift, travel home for a few hours rest before they have to go back in because they’re on a split shift. The hospital cleaner (have you see how fast they work?) who has to cover an immense area, wiping, cleaning, moving beds, again mopping floors (which is actually a complex physical activity involving a high degreee of musculoskeletal flexibility). Factory workers, standing for hours, repeated movements at speeds dictated by the machinery.

The concept of work contained within the WCA is very immature and naive at best. Ignorant some would say. But most likely it reflects the experiences of those who designed it, who probably have no conception at all what the wider field of work is like.

2.1.1.4 The DWP have no model of what work is in the 21st century, and what activities workers are expected to carry out, or how frequently these work activities would be repeated. Consequently there is no traceability between the WCA descriptors and work in the 21st century.

In other words the failure to apply the ‘capabilities’ to any real world actual conditions of work renders the Work Capability Assessment meaningless.

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Written by bigleyma

July 22, 2011 at 2:45 pm

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