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Proposed Work Tests Are Concerning


14 JANUARY 2013

Proposed Work Tests Are Concerning

One of New Zealand’s leading disability service and advocacy organisation CCS Disability Action is calling on the Government to abandon proposals for UK-style work ability assessments for the disabled.

The invalid's benefit is due to be replaced by the supported living payment as part of welfare reforms later this year.

David Matthews, chief executive of CCS Disability Action, is concerned at the prospect of work assessments mirroring the UK system, which is carried out by contracted providers.

“According to a speech by the Social Development Minister Paula Bennett, these tests will be based on the work of Professor Sir Mansel Aylward and the tests in the United Kingdom.

“We support the use of appropriate tests designed to find out what assistance and supports the person needs to obtain employment. However, we have grave concerns about UK-style assessments, especially when these are undertaken by contracted providers.

“Despite the rhetoric about focusing on people’s abilities, these tests have proven to be medical model based checklists, often administrated by people with little real knowledge of disability. The complex social and economic factors that govern people’s access to employment are deemed unimportant in these tests which are characterized by asking meaningless questions about the person’s ability to hold a half kilogram weight.

“The assessments have been particularly inaccurate at assessing those with fluctuating conditions, such as Multiple sclerosis, and mental health issues.”

CCS Disability Action chief executive David Matthews cited research showing the British Government had spent £42.2 million (NZ$80.5m) on appeals against the tests. About 40% of decisions have been appealed and 40% of these have found in favour of the claimant. Often those who have won appeals are quickly reassessed by the government, starting the process again.

“There are serious questions about the accuracy and suitability of the United Kingdom assessments. This creates major problems for the current direction and aims of the New Zealand welfare reforms. We have serious doubts that the consequences of the changes have been properly considered.

The current proposals are at odds with the Government’s other disability initiatives, the New Zealand Disability Strategy and the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, said Mr Matthews.

“Most Government policy focuses on how society builds barriers for the disabled, whereas a key part of the UK system is centered on the extent to which a disabled person could overcome barriers.

"The whole philosophy and approach to disability in New Zealand is based on the social model which looks at the barriers to employing people, rather than what's wrong with the individual," he said.

"We are concerned about basing welfare changes in New Zealand on such a flawed approach."


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