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Reaction to the Public Accounts Committee report on the Work Capability Assessment

Anna Kharbanda

08 February 2013

Professor Stephen Bevan, director of the Centre for Workforce Effectiveness at The Work Foundation and Chair of the Fit for Work Coalition said today:

“The Public Accounts Committee report on the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) released today highlights yet again the difficulty of measuring ability to work among individuals with chronic and fluctuating health conditions. For such conditions, wellbeing and productivity may vary from day to day. The risk is that some individuals will be found fit for work when they are not able to perform, or that people with multiple (comorbid) conditions will not be assessed accurately. For example, around 30 per cent of people with chronic musculoskeletal conditions (eg back pain, arthritis) also have depression or anxiety.

“An earlier and more inclusive review of ability to work is required to ensure that the chances of those individuals who wish to remain active in the labour market are not undermined by the mismatch between the fluctuating nature of their conditions and the sometimes narrow focus of WCA.”

The Fit for Work UK Coalition has welcomed the government’s commitment to introduce a new Independent Assessment Service after four weeks of absence from work following the recommendation of the Sickness Absence Review last month. But the Fit for Work Coalition strongly urges the implementation of such service to be supported by the development of new measures of workability that build on the individual’s remaining capacity to work, rather than their incapacity.


Notes to editors

1. Stephen Bevan is a member of a DWP steering group (chaired by Prof Malcolm Harrington) overseeing an evidence-based review of WCA with a particular focus on fluctuating conditions and mental illness.
2. Professor Stephen Bevan and senior researcher, Ksenia Zheltoukhova, are available for interviews, briefings and written comment.
3. Fit for Work UK is a campaigning coalition established in 2011 with the aim to shift the treatment and care of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) from being disabling conditions to manageable conditions.
4. The Work Foundation aims to be the leading independent, international authority on work and its future. The Work Foundation is part of Lancaster University – an alliance that enables both organisations to further enhance their impact.
5. Fit for Work Europe, is a unique multi-stakeholder coalition that strives to better align the work and health agendas in the EU and to shift the perception of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) from being disabling conditions to manageable conditions, ensuring that more European citizens stay or return to work, while helping to improve the sustainability of Europe's health and welfare systems. Fit for Work is a partnership of organisations and individuals, and enjoys the patronage of The Work Foundation, the UN’s Bone and Joint Decade, the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) and RAND Europe. The Fit for Work Europe Coalition is supported by an ongoing grant from Abbott – a founding partner – and a supporting grant from GE Healthcare.

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