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Probe is planned in Bradford into disability assessments
A full-scale Council investigation into controversial Government disability assessments is to hold a major hearing this week.
Bradford Council, which has branded the tests “unfair”, is believed to be the first local authority in the country to be investigating their effects on vulnerable people in their area.
Anyone who wants to claim disability benefits now has to undergo a test called the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) to see if they are able to work.
But the testing scheme, contracted out to healthcare firm Atos, has come under fire from disability rights groups.
And in July, the Council branded the process “unfair, inaccurate, and bad value for money”.
A motion passed by the full Council said the tests were “causing fear and distress” among vulnerable disabled people, that they discriminated against those who had fluctuating conditions and that the appeals process was too lengthy.
Now, a committee has started investigating the local effects of the programme by holding a two-month inquiry.
As part of this, the Council's Health and Social Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee will meet on Thursday to hear first-hand from disabled people and their carers who have been through the assessment process.
The committee will also be gathering the views of organisations working with disabled people, such as Disability Advice Bradford and Mind, as well as the Department of Work and Pensions and Atos itself.
It will publish its findings in the New Year.
In July, the Government announced it would bring in other contractors to run the assessments, as well as Atos, in a bid to tackle waiting times.
A DWP spokesman said: “Through a series of independent reviews and by working with medical experts and charities, we have considerably improved the WCA process since 2010.
“The percentage of people entitled to Employment and Support Allowance is now at its highest level with more than half of people completing a WCA eligible for the benefit, but everyone has the right to appeal a decision.”
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