Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Amendment to ESA motion

As I mentioned the other day, the debate and vote on the ESA motion will be happening on the 17th of September at 16.15. You can find the text of the motion in the conference agenda on page 16.

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

Conference notes:
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.


  1. The WCA should be stopped ASAP, it is unfit for purpose and is a farce.

    The Atos contract should be cancelled forthwith, disabled people do need support but they also need the financial support that DLA and other benefits bring, we don't need to be stigmatized because of the greed and avarice of the political elite, the political elite being your leader and the rest of the political parties who are all working together to attack the disabled/sick.

  2. Can we also please have a limit on the number of assessments a person is sent for. I had one last August, had to appeal, waited 10 months for a Tribunal, which upheld my appeal and now have been told I will have another assessment because I appealed! The stress and anxiety is killing me.

  3. The problem is that if we just sack ATOS then they'll just be replaced by another company that's just as bad. The only way to fix things is if there's root and branch reform of the whole system and this motion is a step in the right direction.

  4. @Anonymous

    Hopefully making sure the medical assessors are properly medically qualified, ensuring medical evidence is taken into account and simplifying the assessment system will stop the kind of problems you're facing. And if not then I guess next spring conference I'll be back with another motion.

  5. Hello George..
    I hardly know what to say except thankyou for finding a way to include 'sanctions are inappropriate for sick & disabled' especially as the WRAG contains people with such a spectrum of illness/disability i.e severe to slight & recoverable!.. The extent of continual assessments is also really breaking people down but as you say medical evidence, support & legal representation would save lives & hopefully lead to appropriate timely assessments... again, though, it is one of the essential problems now...
    I have tried very hard to keep up with the changes because I am so afraid & stressed & they are complicated... I can see you are really working through it to understand... Hopefully concise & coherent appeals like this will reveal the horrors... I can only pray for debate that brings positive change...
    My heart is breaking so much seeing the riots & fires & so much being lost when it could all be so different...
    It's a nice suprise & breath of fresh air to come on here & find you going the extra mile as you have...
    I see the ammendments above as clear, created with care & an excellent platform... If only it could really be possible to have some peace & legitimacy again...
    Knowing people want things to be different does give extra strength & hope...
    Thankyou & your colleagues again... Nita

  6. When an ATOS Employee describes the people he comes into daily contact with as “Parasitic W-nkers”, one wonders how much any amount of re-writing of the rules will achieve.

    The Government has deliberately and systematically sought to make sick and disabled people suffer the opprobrium generated by their PR machine.

  7. Hi George,
    please have a look at this: http://bit.ly/rbcFF9 ('DWP admits dodgy data use') & fullfact.org/blog/dwp_stati ('statistics authority steps in')...
    best wishes Nita


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