Work capacity assessments row

Foyle Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney has claimed that changes which were supposed to streamline the benefits system could actually “be costing millions.”

Mr McCartney made the claim after he discovered that the Department of Social Development cannot provide figures for the cost of administering the Work Capacity Assessment (WCA) and the cost of appeals against assessment decisions.

“A lot has been made about streamlining the benefits system, simplifying the system and cutting costs. But the evidence we are getting from our constituency offices, welfare rights workers, charities for the disabled is that the new WCA is simply not working,” he said.

The Foyle MLA said the cost of the appeals process must be made known to MLAs. “The DSD have now replied to a written question I submitted to say that it is not possible to provide an overall cost of administering the Work Capability Assessment process within the Social Security Agency as it is an integral but not specific activity within the entire claims process. The Agency costing and financial systems do not capture the cost of administering the end to end Work Capability Assessment process.

“On the issue of the cost of appeals it said the Agency does not gather information in respect of appeals against specific aspects of the claims process. I find it incredible that the Department cannot provide these details, this new system and the high number of appeals could be costing millions at a time when everyone is being told to tighten their belts,” he said.