Representatives from the Department for Work and Pensions should come to Bradford to answer questions about the controversial ‘fit to work’ assessments.
That was the view of councillors at a meeting of the Health and Social Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee last night. The meeting was part of an scrutiny investigation into how people in Bradford have been affected by Atos and the Work Capability Assessment (WCA).
Both were criticised by councillors, who listened to presentations from organisations working with people who are experiencing the WCA process.
Last year, Bradford Council started an investigation into the Government disability assessments. Councillor Jeanette Sunderland (Lib Dem, Idle and Thackley) called for the DWP to face Bradford, adding: “This work must represent the Bradford district.”
It was agreed that councillors could submit questions to go on a “long list” to be sent to DWP.
Councillor Doreen Lee (Lab, Keighley East) derided the WCA system. She said: “The original aim was to get rid of shirkers – but it has gone into reverse.”
She told of a couple, both unable to work because of learning difficulties and handicaps, “spiralling out of control” because the man had been declared fit to work.
“He cannot go to work,” said Coun Lee. “They are in a state. Their doctor is fighting for them, I am fighting for them, we are all fighting for them.
The meeting also heard that there had been 160 sanctions in Bradford district between December, 2012, and September, 2013, against people who had ‘failed to undertake specific work-related activities’. Of those, 120 were disabled people.
Coun Sunderland wanted a breakdown of the figures. Coun Lee said: “We want figures for Bradford. We are scrutinising it on behalf of Bradford residents. The figures should be available.”
Nick Hodgkinson, manager at Advice Network and Training Partnership (Bradford District) gave a presentation to the committee about the WCA and answered councillors’ questions.
He said: “There is a universal distrust with the performance of Atos. We must ensure people are treated with greater dignity and respect.”
The meeting also heard ‘horror stories’ including one that a member of Atos staff had asked if someone with Down’s Syndrome would “get better”.