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Eilidh Whiteford, MP for Banff & Buchan

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WHITEFORD COMMENTS ON HARRINGTON WELFARE REVIEW

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP today called for improvements to the system that assesses disabled people for work after it was criticised in an independent review by Professor Malcolm Harrington.

Prof. Harrington said the Work Capability Assessments (WCA) were not working as well as they should be, adding that the system was “impersonal, mechanistic and lacks empathy”.

Dr Whiteford, whose own constituents are part of incapacity benefit reforms being trialled in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, said:

“I know first hand from constituents that the current system is causing distress for disabled people and Professor Harrington’s findings suggest that this is a much wider problem. It cannot be acceptable for a system to be so flawed that it could damage the health of people trying to claim sickness benefits.

“While supporting benefit reform, genuinely vulnerable individuals must not become an easy target for Conservative and Liberal cuts.

“There are already huge questions over the assessment process with people undergoing chemotherapy, in some cases terminally ill people, being ordered to attend back-to-work interviews.

“Return-to-work initiatives can benefit both the economy and the individual, but people should only return to the workplace when they are genuinely able and when correct support measures are available.

“Existing safeguards are not working and, with major reforms in the pipeline, we need real guarantees to ensure that that people living with genuine incapacity and ill health are spared added stress and uncertainty.”

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