Unfortunately, this means that some of the changes suggested by campaigners won't be mentioned in the motion. This was a result of the time limit and the text of the motion in the agenda can't be altered now, even by the sponsors, Liberal Youth.
HOWEVER, the good news is that the text of the motion can still be altered by an official amendment to the motion. The procedure for conference is that the proposer of the motion speaks first and then the proposers of any amendments speak. Obviously I can't propose both the amendment and the motion but I've co-authored an amendment with Sophie Bridger and she's said she's willing to be the person who speaks as the proposer of the amendment in the debate. This will leave me free to speak as the proposer of the motion overall and I also intend to include in my speech a statement supporting the amendment. I should also point out that the amendment will hopefully be officially sponsored by my local party (sponsoring is required for the amendment to be considered to go on the agenda). Confused yet?
Anyway, the text of the amendment is here and here's how the motion will read if the amendment is approved by conference (and I see no reason why it won't be):
Employment and Support Allowance and Work Capability Assessments
i) That eligibility for the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) benefit is determined by the
Work Capability Assessments (WCAs) which are currently carried out by Atos Healthcare, a private company.
ii) That currently 70% of assessed rejections which go to appeal are subsequently overturned, though the appeal success rate is lower for claimants without representation.
iii) That the way in which WCAs are conducted has been criticised by Parliamentary Inquiries and by the Tribunal Judiciary.
iv) That the Liberal Democrat-Conservative Coalition Government has stated its aims to support people who are fit to work move off state benefits and into work and support those currently unable to work to prepare for work in the future.
v) The on-going reviews of Work Capability Assessments led by Professor Malcolm Harrington, which have made recommendations on how the WCA process can be improved.
vi) That the Government has so far implemented the vast majority of the recommendations made by Professor Malcolm Harrington.
vii) The Government’s Welfare Reform Bill proposals to simplify the appeals process for claimants.
Conference believes that:
A. It is the duty of a compassionate society and government to provide the necessary support for those who are unable to support themselves.
B. The new Work Capability Assessment has been shown to be inaccurate and "not fit for purpose".
C. Any medical assessments should be carried out only by trained medical professionals who are accountable to official medical bodies such as the GMC or the RCN.
D. A system where 70% of decisions are overturned at appeal is not cost effective due to the high cost of holding appeal tribunals and the associated administration costs.
E. The current Assessment procedure, whereby claimants are assessed by the use of a computer-generated questionnaire in which the Assessor uses a "tick box" technique, does not have the scope to properly take account of the claimant's medical history as provided by their GP and/or Consultant.
F. Sanctions are inappropriate and unnecessary for the sick and the disabled.
Conference calls for:
1. The Government to continue to implement Professor Harrington’s recommendations on reforming the WCA as a priority, in addition to an emphasis on:
a) Clearer Assessment criteria and descriptors, to make it more apparent under what circumstances ESA is paid.
b) Ensuring all medical components of Work Capability Assessments are undertaken by fully trained professionals, including those who understand mental health and fluctuating and complex conditions.
c) A less stressful Assessment process.
d) People with disabilities getting the support they need.
e) Sanctions and conditionality to be removed from the Work Related Activity Group.
2. Opposition to an arbitrary time limit on how long claimants can claim contributory ESA.3. All ESA claimants going to appeal to be given access to adequate support and legal representation.