Testing times for people with Parkinson's

The controversial Work Capability Assessment, also known as the "fitness to work" test, has been causing great difficulties for people with Parkinson's. After campaigning relentlessly on the issue, we were recently given the opportunity by government to suggest changes to the test.

Our Policy and Campaigns Advisor, Donna O'Brien, who focuses on welfare and social care, has been helping to tackle the flaws in the assessment:

"For people with Parkinson's of working age, the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) benefit is a financial lifeline. Eligibility is usually decided through a Work Capability Assessment.

"Ever since ESA was introduced in 2008 we've heard of people with Parkinson's who have been declared 'fit to work' despite the very serious problems they are experiencing with the condition. In large part, this is because of the flawed design of the Work Capability Assessment.

"The assessment is very crude and doesn't measure the ability to endure a working day, let alone a week, or reflect the fatigue, pain and unpredictability of Parkinson's.

"In 2010 an independent review recognised that those with fluctuating conditions, like Parkinson's or MS, and mental health or cognitive issues, were particularly likely to fall foul of the process. So we worked with other fluctuating condition charities to report on what needed to change:

"In answer to this criticism, the government has said it will continuously review and improve the current tests. While we believe this is not radical enough, this move does allow us to help push for improvements for people with Parkinson's.

"We've been working with other charities, talking to people with Parkinson's who have been through the tests, and consulting occupational therapists, to come up with improvements to the current assessment."

The future

The Government is now looking at how suggestions made by the charities can be tested alongside the current Work Capability Assessment, to see if it helps produce more accurate conclusions about "fitness to work". This process will take at least 6 months to complete, and then the government will consider what may be adopted based on evidence from the review.

Please leave your comments and experiences to ensure the voices of people with Parkinson's continue to be heard.

If you have any questions about the Work Capability Assessment please contact Donna O'Brien on dobrien@parkinsons.org.uk or call 020 7963 9307.


Nick White said...

I am filling out the form this Tues with the help of my local Parkinsons Information and support worker (Denise McDonald).
Few if any of the questions on the form have any relevance it looks like, and most certainly does not allow for Parkinson's sufferers to highlight their difficulties!
I also have Osteoarthritis and several other long standing conditions, but looking at this form I fully expect to be classified as 'fit to work'.
If that happens I know I will be bound to have a recurrence of the severe depression I have had to battle before - I doubt I will survive another suicidal event!
I have already had to stop getting a Motobility vehicle due to this uncertainty, and am told it will be at least January before I hear their decision.
I'm not expecting to reach my 65th birthday in 20 months time.

Parkinson's UK said...

Dear Nick

Thanks for taking the time to post, we understand this process can be extremely stressful and upsetting so it is good to hear that Denise is in contact with you for support.

Our confidential helpline is also available should you need to talk, please feel free to make contact on 0808 800 0303.

We also have a specialist benefits and employment adviser on the helpline who could offer some help and information about Motability and ensure you are getting everything you are entitled to.

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