Prof Malcolm Harrington, the government appointed adviser on testing welfare claimants, admitted the work fitness test was “patchy”. He said that as a result of the flaws in the 13 week assessment, which tests physical fitness as well as mental skills, some claimants who were genuinely unable to work, have suffered. He made the comments during an investigation into the system, introduced by the last Labour government, by the BBC’s Panorama programme.
“There are certainly areas where it’s still not working and I am sorry there are people going through a system which I think still needs improvement,” he said. The programme, which airs on Monday night, features the story of one man who suffered from heart failure and died 39 days after being declared fit for work.
Stephen Hill was sent to his first Work Capability Assessment in 2010 when he gave up his job as a sandwich delivery man after being referred for tests on his heart. His wife Denise, who was with him at the assessment, said: “She checked him out. She did his blood pressure and his heart and said to see a doctor as soon as possible.” Despite the assessor telling Mr Hill to seek urgent medical advice, he was still found fit for work. In the meantime doctors had diagnosed him with heart failure.
He won his appeal but he was ordered to attend another assessment. “He got a letter for another medical and I couldn’t believe it,” said Mrs Hill. “He’d got to go for a medical when he was waiting for a heart operation.” But he was again declared fit for work, with the assessor declaring: “Significant disability due to cardiovascular problems seems unlikely.”
Mr Hill died of a heart attack five weeks later.
Source: Daily Telegraph
30th July 2012