Third Harrington Review of the WCA: the next stage of the journey

This week Professor Malcolm Harrington published his third Independent Review of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA). We welcome the report which acknowledges that improvements from the previous reviews are starting to have a positive impact.  While he proposed no further fundamental changes to the assessment, we are committed to working closely with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to further improve our service and the claimant experience, taking account of the new recommendations.

Improvements made to the WCA

Based on recommendations made in the first two reports, we have already implemented a number of changes to help improve the experience for those claiming benefit:

  • Personalised summary statements in assessment reports to inform DWP Decision Makers
  • Built a team of 60 Mental Function Champions
  • Piloted audio recordings, which are now available on request
  • Created our Customer Charter, which outlines our service commitment
  • Updated elements of the IT system used by healthcare professional during the assessment

Evidence on the effectiveness of our part in ESA


Professor Harrington’s review looks at the whole WCA process, not just the part we carry out. Professor Harrington visited one of 123 permanent assessment centres where our staff carry out the assessments on behalf of the DWP.   We accept the improvement points he raises regarding our role and will work closely with the DWP to review these changes. It is important to note, the following points heard by the Public Accounts Committee on the 19th November:

  • DWP Decision Makers have the right to send back a WCA report if they feel it doesn’t contain adequate information to make the right decision – they send back less than 0.1%.
  • Claimants can ask for a copy of the report from the DWP and a complaints process is in place for individuals not happy with it or any other part of the process – less than 0.6% complain.
  • Appeals tribunals are also invited to send back WCA reports to the DWP if they think they are below standard – only 23 have been sent back in 2012.
  • The MoJ recently published statistics showing that just 0.3% of initial DWP decisions were overturned as a result of an error in the Atos assessment reports relied upon by DWP decision makers.

Continuing our path to a better WCA experience

Over the coming months, we will work with the DWP to review all of Professor Harrington’s latest recommendations.  While the assessment forms only one part of the information used by the DWP when it makes its decisions on benefits, it is clearly a significant part and we are the first to recognise that, in a role as complex and challenging as this, it’s our duty to continue to improve all aspects of our work.

In the meantime, whether based on feedback from individuals, disability organisations or other relevant stakeholder groups, we are always looking for ways to help claimants better understand the assessment process. As just one example of an outcome from this kind of engagement, in early 2013 we will be introducing a series of videos designed to provide an easily accessible, step-by-step guide to each stage of the assessment process.

For more information about Atos Healthcare’s role in ESA, please see the guidance we have provided on our partnership with the DWP.

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