Theresa May’s government is going to court to bury the truth about one of its most hated policies

Theresa May WCA Three
Support us and go ad-free

Theresa May’s government is once again going to court; this time, to try and block the publication of a report into one of its most controversial policies. But if the report sees the light of day, it could be devastating for the Conservatives. Because the policy has allegedly, in part, been linked to the deaths of thousands of people.

Protecting profits; ignoring suffering

The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) falls under the remit of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). It is designed to decide whether a disabled or sick person is capable of working, and whether they should continue to receive benefits such as Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). Private firm Maximus, and previously Atos, carries out the WCA.

But now, the DWP is trying to stop the publication of an ‘outcome’ report which could expose the failure of the tests. This is because, it claims, the report could harm the “commercial interests” of the department and the two private companies. The Mirror claims the report, which goes back to 2011, “contains monthly performance details from each [WCA] testing centre”.

The government had previously refused a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to release the report, on the “commercial interests” grounds. But in March, the FOI watchdog – the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) – ordered [pdf] the DWP to release the report. So now, the government is using taxpayers’ money to challenge this decision in court.

Marred by controversy

The WCA has been marred by controversy. Scandals surrounding it include:

  • The nearly 90 people a month who die after the WCA declares them ‘fit-for-work’.
  • The evidence linking the WCA to 590 suicides, 279,000 cases of mental health conditions, and the prescribing of an additional 725,000 antidepressants.
  • The study that finds the assessments may be causing permanent mental health damage.
  • The DWP ‘Kill Yourself‘ scandal, where WCA assessors were caught asking people why they hadn’t killed themselves yet.
  • The UN saying the WCA caused significant “anxiety” and “financial, material and psychological hardship”.
  • Accusations that WCA assessors “lie” to stop people receiving benefits.
  • The revelation that the assessments actually cost the government more money than they save.

The case of Lawrence Bond best highlights the controversy surrounding the WCA. As The Canary previously reported, Bond suffered a fatal heart attack shortly after leaving the Kentish town Jobcentre on 12 December 2016. The 56-year-old had longstanding health problems such as difficulty with mobility and breathing. But the DWP had declared him ‘fit-for-work’ that same day.

May’s government: shameful

We won’t know the outcome of the DWP legal challenge until November. But ironically, the DWP has just published [pdf] updated ‘guidance’ for its WCA assessors. A spokesperson for the department told The Mirror:

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

This information is exempt from disclosure under FOI rules as it covers commercial interests. We publish a range of information on WCA outcomes, including at a regional level.

For the Tories to hide behind the loose law surrounding FOI is nothing short of shameful, but expected. Because this decision comes from a government which the UN said has committed “grave” and “systematic” violations of disabled people’s human rights. Its contempt for sick and disabled people continuously reaches new lows. And for it to try and bury potentially damning information which could expose even more blood on its hands, because of “commercial interests”, is yet again nothing short of scandalous.

Get Involved

Read more from The Canary on disability.

– Support Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) in its fight for disabled people’s rights. And donate to the latest DPAC crowdfunder.

Featured image via YouTube

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed