How Norms Become Targets

Investigating the real reason for the misery of ‘fit for work’ assessments

Author: Kaliya Franklin

Kaliya Franklin is a leading independent disability campaigner and is a member of the Spartacus network. 

In this important paper Kaliya Franklin carefully analyses how it is government policy that has undermined the objectivity of the medical assessments used by the private medical firm Atos. While Atos have been the primarily been blamed for the high numbers of successful appeals against their assessments, Kaliya explains that the real cause of the problem probably lies in the system used by the DWP to manage its contract with Atos.

There seems to be no evidence that the norms themselves are based on any empirical evidence as to the real impact of disability on someone's ability to work. The very low success rate in helping disabled people to find work suggests that these targets were artificially imposed by the DWP and serve only to save money by cutting the incomes of the poorest. Moreover, the process of setting norms and managing to those norms, further corrupts the assessment process and seems likely to have undermined its objectivity.

Today this is a grave problem within the use of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) process which is used to restrict access to the Employment Support Allowance and to assign people to either the 'Support Group' or 'Work Related Activity Group'. Furthermore this norm-based methodology will damage any system of assessment in the future.

It should be a concern to all tax payers that:

  1. Systems for the assessment of disability are being created that lack proper empirical foundations
  2. These systems are managed in such a way that their objectivity is likely to be undermined
  3. The process is becoming both more unfair, unreliable and expensive

Kaliya's article draws on a wide range of evidence, including comments from sources who prefer to remain anonymous. The fact that professionals need anonymity should be an additional cause of concern.

Read and download the full paper below or here.


The publisher is The Centre for Welfare Reform.

Investigating the real reason for the misery of 'fit for work' assessments © Kaliya Franklin 2013.

All Rights Reserved. No part of this paper may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher except for the quotation of brief passages in reviews.

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