Headway Calls For Work Capability Assessment Changes

The Charity Wants Work Assessments To Be Fairer

24.12.2013

Brain injury charity Headway has called on the government to make changes to the way it carries out Work Capability Assessments (WCA).

Executives from the foundation took part in a consultation on the controversial process, which has seen thousands of people sent back to work despite them having potentially serious disabilities.

But Headway is now more positive about the way the government is handling the WCA process and called the publishing a fourth independent review "a small step in the right direction".

The report calls for a new reassessment period that extends to five years for people with very severe incapacities caused by brain injuries that will either not improve or are degenerative.

Previously, it was very difficult for people with these types of ailments to organise a reassessment in the WCA, something that would secure them better disability benefits and lift them from the threat of having to go back to work earlier than they would otherwise be ready to.

Peter McCabe, chief executive of Headway, said: "We welcome many aspects of this report, particularly the consideration to extend the reassessment period for people with brain disorders.

"A five-year gap between reassessments for those living with the long-term effects of brain injury would be very much welcomed."

However, despite these positive steps, Headway does have some concerns over the fact that assessors seem to not be well educated enough about brain injuries. The foundation has stated it regularly receives complaints from people with this type of disability that their condition is not being taken seriously enough.

Concerns have consistently been raised about the government's WCA programme in recent years.

To address these issues, coalition ministers have decided to bring other providers in alongside Atos, which had borne the brunt of much of the scheme's criticism, with some campaigners stating short assessments are not thorough enough to gauge candidates' ability to work.

Expert Opinion
It is encouraging to see that steps are being taken by Work Capability Assessments (WCA), however it is clear by the report that more needs to be done to ensure that people who suffer from brain injuries or severe disabilities are assessed accurately.

“We see firsthand in our work with serious injury victims that those have occurred a brain injury do not always display physical symptoms. This is why it is essential staff looking after patients are given the appropriate training to ensure that underlying problems and symptoms are not missed and they are not forced to return to work before they are capable.

“Brain injuries have to be treated very seriously, as they are often misunderstood and can result in not only physical problems, but emotional and mental issues.

“They must be monitored strictly by professionals to ensure that the patient can make the best recovery possible with the resources at hand which is hoped will improve their independence and one day allow them to return to work.”
Colin Ettinger, Partner