‘Toxic’ Work Capability Assessment should be replaced with a real-world test, say researchers

23 March 2015

recent report by the cross-party think-tank Demos has called for a ‘rethinking of incapacity’, and the implementation of a system that ‘actually assesses incapacity’. The report recommends that a successive government should develop a system that moves away from the ‘tick box approach’, currently used by assessors.

In his blog published on The Conversation, Ben Baumberg, one of the report’s authors states that ‘The test should measure the extent that someone’s disabilities interfere with their ability to get or keep a job, given who they are (including their age, skills, and experience)’. A system which takes non-medical factors into account is described by the report as a ‘real-world test’.

Drawing on examples from incapacity assessments in Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand the final report puts forward five key lessons for the UK.
These lessons include details of how real-world testing is currently being used effectively in countries similar to the UK. The lessons also highlight the need to maintain a dividing line between incapacity and unemployment, whilst also ensuring that unemployment benefits are a ‘safe place to be’ for disabled people.

Baumberg writes that disabled people ‘should not face the Kafka-esque situation of being not disabled enough for incapacity benefits, but too disabled to meet the requirements of Jobseeker’s Allowance’.
The focus on ‘real world testing’, is about shifting understandings and perceptions of incapacity so that it is more aligned with the experiences of disabled people in the real world.
The report states that major reform is needed to restore the system to effectiveness and legitimacy; putting forward the argument that disabled people should be more involved in this process of reform. Baumberg concludes that ‘Whoever forms a government in May 2015 should commit to this and quickly set up an expert panel with adequate time and resources to turn this into a reality.’
A summary of the report can be read here.