We certainly have some, not on the streets as the Government would have us believe, but within their own ranks and in office running DWP.
The purpose of this blog is to warn you about a couple of particularly dishonest facets of a WCA that you will have to face. There is no point bellyaching at Atos or DWP Decision Makers (DM), because they will rightly tell you that they are just following the rules laid out in the legislation and they are right. So target the legislators!!!! It goes like this:
In around March 2011, the test relating to bending and kneeling was completely removed from the WCA. This has been in the pipeline for the best part of two years. For most people with a muscular-skeletal problem, this is usually the most difficult manoeuvre and so would attract most WCA points. What better way therefore to reduce points totals than to remove the test altogether.
The “justification” is that years of H & S legislation has meant that bending and kneeling is no longer a significant feature of the modern workplace. You can argue this until you are blue in the face, but this is what the law now says. It is supposedly the view of the occupational health experts, but I have yet to find any research or empirical evidence that suggests this might be true, nor anything from the Government that measures the level of compliance.
A rough analogy is with the 70 mph limit on the motorways – in place for years and despite fairly proactive policing, on the Government’s own admission, 50% motorists ignore it. I do not know why they think compliance here would be any better and with less active policing, probably much worse.
Then there is the question of mobility.
The first test used to be about walking, now referred to as “mobilisation” (slightly odd as the word is more to do with preparing to move than actually moving). This in itself is ok and better accommodates anyone in a wheelchair who can get about just as well as anyone walking. However, the Government (not Atos and not the DWP civil servants) have placed an interesting twist on this.
You will now be judged not just on the distance you can walk (without exhaustion & pain free etc) on level ground, but whether you could cover the distance in a wheelchair WHETHER YOU ALREADY USE ONE OR NOT. Atos HCPs are told in the WCA Manual (sanctioned by DWP) that they must make this consideration and that self-propelled wheelchairs are in ample supply. So be very careful how you answer questions about upper body strength, as this is what they have in mind. State quite clearly that you could not manage to propel a wheelchair, or they will assume you can.
In my WCA, we talked about making a cup of tea and in the absence of any indication to the contrary, the HCP concluded that there was no reason I should not be able to self-propel a wheelchair more than 200m = zero points. There was absolutely no specific discussion about the possibility – how dishonest can you be???
If this was not deceitful enough, it gets worse. The next test is about getting up and down two steps and (like me) you may have said on your ESA50 questionnaire that this is something you could manage, so zero points. However, the situation has changed, because I have now been consigned to a wheelchair as described above, so would accrue some points here you would think – but no, on the basis of what I said on the ESA50.
So the full scenario that goes alongside zero points for both is that you cover the flat surfaces in your wheelchair, but when you reach the two steps, you hop out and walk down them and get back in the wheelchair. But hang on, the wheelchair is still at the top of the steps . . . . . . . . .
Decision Makers have been told to ignore this broken logic, so little point in shouting at them. Nor is it worth asking for an opinion, as they will not give one.
I am sure there will be other equally dishonest and unfair clauses in the legislation that I have just not come across and the only answer lies with parliament, so lobby your MP as loudly as you can as often as you can.