A system which decides whether disabled people are fit to work has been branded “unfair” by Bradford Council.
The Government’s Work Capability Assessments (WCAs), which decide whether people on disability benefits are well enough to work, have already been heavily criticised by disability rights organisations.
The Council has now raised serious concerns about the process, which is run by the company Atos Healthcare in a £400m contract.
These include worries about the system being unfairly weighted against people with health conditions that fluctuate, as the test is whether they could work on ‘the majority of days’. The Council is also concerned at the time it takes for appeals against decisions to be either upheld or rejected.
It is now asking the Council’s health and social care scrutiny committee to investigate the situation locally and write a report on its findings.
The Council is also writing to all MPs in the Bradford district about the matter.
The motion was originally suggested by Respect councillors and amended by the ruling Labour group before being agreed by the full Council.
Councillor Alyas Karmani said: “It’s a very, very stressful process. There is one person in my constituency who has got MS and the assessor was asking silly questions.
“His condition is such that one day he can’t go out and on another day he might be able to walk 20 metres.”
A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said the process had already been improved.
He 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 over half of people completing a WCA eligible for the benefit, but everyone has the right to appeal a decision if they disagree with it.
“Only 15 per cent of all fit for work decisions are overturned on appeal and this is often because people present new evidence which wasn’t available when the original decision was made.”
A spokesman for ATOS Healthcare said neither the policy behind the assessments, nor the appeals process, were matters the company was responsible for.
She said: “Appeals are against the Department for Work and Pensions and are managed by the Ministry for Justice and Atos Healthcare has absolutely no part in this process so couldn’t change or influence the timescales for these in any way.”