RNIB slam “Ridiculous” Work Capability Assessment for the Blind

RNIBLogoThe RNIB are campaigning to have the Work Capability Assessment(WCA) changed to reflect the reality of everyday living for blind and partially sighted people. They say the current questions are “Ridiculous”. The WCA is meant to help the Government decide if a disabled person is “fit for work” or not. Depending on the result, a blind or partially sighted person can be given support to remain out of work, the support to get back into work, or no specialist support at all. Here are details about the assessment.

WORK CAPABILITY ASSESSMENT

FOR Blind and partially sighted people

The ability of a blind or partially sighted person to read braille is likely to restrict them to a time limited benefit or even receive no benefit at all

Explanation: The assessment covers communication and no points will be given if the person can use Braille to understand a basic message. However, this fails to acknowledge that considerable barriers to using Braille at work remain. For example, most employers are unable to communicate in Braille with their blind employees, and even where they can Braille is not always an effective means of interacting with a sighted person who is unaware of the visually impaired persons needs.

Blind and partially sighted people cannot score points towards being eligible for the benefit for not being aware of hazards

Explanation: The ‘awareness of hazard’ activity should be important for blind or partially sighted people. However, it is contained within the ‘mental function assessment’ and makes no reference to sight loss. The Guidance illustrates examples of understanding the danger of hazards. It should be of equal importance if a person is simply unaware of the hazard because of vision loss, and not exclusively because they do not understand the danger of the hazard.

The assessment does not take into account whether claimants have any qualifications and whether there are any available or suitable jobs

Explanation: The assessment was initially supplemented by the Work Focused Health Related Assessment (WFHRA) that assessed the likelihood of someone working once found fit for work. This has been suspended since July 2010

Being unable to navigate or having difficulty with navigation due to sight loss is not enough to avoid your benefit being time limited

Explanation: Blind and partially sighted claimants cannot be assessed as having “Limited Capability for Work-Related Activity” solely on the basis of difficulties with navigation, however severe. This has important financial implications because people in the Work Related Activity Group lose their entitlement to contributory ESA after just one year, whereas those in the support group do not.

The assessment does not take into account that Blind and partially sighted people face multiple barriers to entering the labour market

Explanation: Probably the biggest evidence of the weakness of the WCA is the fact it is biased towards the idea that disabled people have one barrier that can be measured by one adjustment. Blind and partially sighted people can face problems with travel, communication, use of equipment, awareness of the environment, locating and finding objects and so on. It is not appropriate to measure this simply by way of whether a blind or partially sighted person can navigate their way to a building.

The assessment only looks at the ability of a person with sight loss to reach and leave a building – it does not assess them against any work based tasks

Explanation: The guidance used by assessors states, “within the workplace the key issue is the individual’s ability to navigate and maintain safety in their environment.” There is no actual assessment of their ability to work such as an assessment of their ability to use accessible software.

Taking your coat off when you arrive at the assessment can count towards you being found fit for work

Explanation: The assessment is in three parts. Part 1 is observed behaviour of the applicant. It includes whether they can ”manipulate belt or buttons.”

The assessment for judging someone’s work capability asks blind and partially sighted people whether they can read newspapers, drive a car and get into or out of a bath

Explanation: Part 2 of the assessment is called “activities of daily living” test and includes these activities.

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