Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Meeting Professor Harrington

Yesterday I went to London to attend a meeting in Portcullis House where Professor Harrington, the man charged with reviewing the Work Capability Assessment which determines eligibility for incapacity benefit, was being asked questions by various members of the House of Lords welfare committee and miscellaneous others (e.g. me).

The meeting took place under Chatham House rules - which mean that no one at the meeting is allowed to disclose what was said at the meeting or even who attended. The reason for this is because politicians are a paranoid lot and generally refuse to speak plainly unless they can be guaranteed that someone won't quote them in an unfavourable manner.

In this particular case I don't really think Chatham House rules were necessary in this case but the conditions of being invited to the meeting (and I was only there as a guest of the Lib Dem Disability Association) are that you have to follow the rules or otherwise you won't be invited in future.

So, though I can't go into details of the meeting I can say that I left the meeting feeling very optimistic about the future WCA and confident that Professor Harrington is definitely the right man for the job. That's all I can say right now but I should be able to give a bit more detail in two to three weeks time after the DWP has approved a two paragraph summary of the meeting.


  1. I have always understood that the Chatham House Rule (There's only one) is that you may quote anything said but not identify the speaker, so saying who was there would be OK if it didn't enable your readers to do that.

  2. Glad you're feeling optimistic about some future WCA. DWP mostly ignored harringtons last recommendations so why should any further reports be heeded? Let's for the sake of argument assume that all harringtons new recommendations are implemented, what about all those who have been unfairly tested by the older WCAs described as unfit for purpose? Will they be tested again at the taxpayers' expense or are they deemed to be acceptable casualties as Ashdown alluded to on last week's question time?

    1. I don't think the recommendations are being ignored. The problem is that some assessment centres have already implemented all, or nearly all, of the recommendations but many other assessment centres are only beginning to implement them. I can't go into details, which is frustrating, but if you look through the Harrington Reports you can see that the recommendations are all distinctly for the better and that Harrington himself seems fairly happy about how they're being implemented.

      What happens to people who have already been unfairly tested I don't think anyone really knows, but they're probably going to have to either appeal the decisions or to wait until their condition worsens and reapply. I think that's absolutely disgusting and wrong but I don't think there's any way to change it as long as the tories are around.

  3. I've read both Harrington reports many times.

    The first was good. Very good really.

    The second was a series of rebuffed recommendations. It may as well have read - "Sorry, the DWP didn't agree to anything anyone wanted"

    I like to think that deep down Harrington knows it isn't working and won't work as the structure and descriptors are unfixable.

    That he knows he can do no more and is walking away.

    I like to think that a man who knows every detail of ESA and WCAs would expose it for what it is and will remain until we stop playing games.

    I like to think it.

    Ahhhh, I am an optimist. Alternatively, if he walks away now and remains wedded to this human disaster unfolding he will be remembered as the man who made a good start at changing things, then walked away and left us to our fate.

    OR He's managed to get the Gov to accept some more pretty radical changes and he walks away having actually made a difference.

    OR He's fixed it all now and "everything's fine, just wait and see...."

    One of those.

    1. "OR He's managed to get the Gov to accept some more pretty radical changes and he walks away having actually made a difference."

      Put it like this: I have very good reason to believe it's the above.

    2. With regards to the descriptors, from what I can gather from reading the reports, etc. Harrington asked the various interest groups, Mind, Mencap, Macmillan, and so on, to come up with alternative descriptors which the DWP has accepted - the issue being that it take several years to change the descriptors, however, so it will be a while before the changes actually take place - though they will ultimately take place.

      That's what I got from publicly available material and, again, the meeting gave me no cause to doubt its veracity.

      The irritating thing is that I'm really biting my tongue here as there's some very good news but I'm not allowed to talk about it - which is a right royal pain in the arse.

  4. If everything was fixed and fine then people woudl not still be losing their lives, people would not still be stressed to beyond any stress they have ever felt before.

    How can we trust a govt that treats the weakest people like this??????

    How can Clegg be trusted when he agrees with everything Cameron says?????
    How can Clegg be trusted when he does not stand up and SCREAM AND SHOUT about how inhuman this is?
    If he does not stand tall and SAY HOW INHUMAN THIS IS then he is complicit with conservatives in it - By not disagreeing - he is agreeing!

    And if he does not agree with me then i ask him yet again - HOW can he stand by idly and watch what is happening to this country?????

    I am ashamed that I used to live in a country I wads proud of and now I feel on one hand ive moved to USA, and on the other I dont know where the hell i am now but I know it is not a place where humans treat weaker humans in a humane way.

    And if this country is not humane. Then I am so ashamed of this govt for even daring to LIE to me when they were touting for votes - out and out lies, as they are doing the complete opposite

    Cameron and Clegg should both hang their heads in shame. and stop swigging their moet - and become one of the people - we are not the 1% of the rich like they are - we dont have people to do our bidding. we who have nothing - get to live on soup and bread, and pray that it wont get bloody worse

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