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Improvements to work capability test welcome: McCausland

Social Development Minister, Nelson McCausland, has published his departmentís response to the recent report issued by Dr Paul Litchfield recommending further improvements to the Work Capability Assessment.
Thursday, 27 March 2014

The report, which is the fourth independent review undertaken of the Work Capability Assessment process and the first carried out by Occupational Health specialist, Dr Paul Litchfield, acknowledges: ’The Work Capability Assessment has evolved since its introduction and will continue to evolve as circumstances change.’ He added: ‘No test is ever perfect but the Work Capability Assessment has been designed with considerable rigour and it is subject to a process of continuous improvement.’

Dr Litchfield’s report contains 37 recommendations, 5 of which are specific to Northern Ireland. The Department has accepted all of the Northern Ireland recommendations and the majority of the wider recommendations which also relate to the Department for Work and Pensions. The implementation of these recommendations should see improvements in areas such as communication with customers, the medical assessment and simplification of the Work Capability Assessment process. Some of the recommendations will require more consideration to determine the feasibility and potential impact of implementation.

Responding to the report Minister McCausland said: “Dr Litchfield has recognised the valuable role of the Department’s Health Assessment Adviser, whose role is to monitor the quality of service provided by our medical support services provider. Dr Litchfield also commented on the compassion shown by the Decision Makers in the Department in making decisions on individual benefit entitlement cases. I welcome his acknowledgement on this important aspect and would take this opportunity to reiterate our commitment that we will continue with our efforts to improve the services we provide.”

Concluding the Minister said: “Whilst good progress has been made we must accept that some individuals still find the process of work capability assessment challenging. My Department will continue to build on the improvements already made to better meet the needs of claimants.”

Notes to editors:

  1. The Department for Social Development (DSD) commissioned Dr Paul Litchfield to undertake the fourth Independent Review of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), as required by section 10 of the Welfare Reform Act (Northern Ireland) 2007.
  2. Northern Ireland will also be included in the fifth Independent Review of the Work Capability Assessment in full alignment with the Department for Work and Pensions in Great Britain.
  3. The WCA was introduced in October 2008 to assess entitlement to Employment and Support Allowance, which replaced Incapacity Benefit and Income Support on incapacity/disability grounds for new claimants from 27 October 2008. The assessment is used to determine limited capability for work and limited capability for work-related activity.
  4. Media enquiries only to DSD Communications Team on 028 9082 9496. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.