The Government will announce a consultation on the reform of the controversial Work Capability Assessment on Monday (31 October), it has been reported. The move follows concessions made to the assessments earlier this year when Work and Pensions Secretary Chris Grayling announced those with long-term health conditions would not face annual re-tests.
The tests, which are aimed at driving claimants of Employment Support Allowance (ESA) back to work by assessing their physical and mental capabilities, have been the subject of much criticism, particularly after they were linked to a number of suicides. Charities and campaigners, who described the assessments as "fundamentally flawed" broadly welcomed the move.
The Press Association reported that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Damian Green, said the proposed changes would "improve opportunities and raise aspirations while making sure those people who most need support from the Government receive it".
The consultation will apparently look at how to encourage claimants back into employment without risking their benefits at the same time.
Debbie Abrahams, the Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, welcomed the news on Sunday and added: "Work Capability Assessments cause needless misery and stress for thousands upon thousands of sick and disabled people."
However, Abrahams added that a consultation did not go far enough and said that Labour would scrap the tests altogether. She said: "This cruel Tory approach is ideologically driven with the sole purpose of targeting the most vulnerable in our society to pay for their austerity plans, painting disabled people as scroungers and shirkers, whilst making no impact on the disability employment gap.
"Rather than tinkering at the edges, I have announced that Labour will scrap the Work Capability Assessments and replace them with a holistic, person-centred approach, based on principles of dignity and inclusion. This will be a key policy under our plans to transform the social security system."
Director Ken Loach, whose film I, Daniel Blake won the prestigious Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival, tweeted "Wonder if @idanielblake had anything to do with this?" The film focuses on a 59-year-old joiner in the North-East of England who is subject to a Work Capability Assessment during recovery from a heart attack.