A national autism charity has welcomed news that spot-checks will be made at job centres to see whether recommendations to improve disability benefit assessments have been implemented.

Professor Malcolm Harrington, who last year reviewed the work capability assessment (WCA), recently revealed that he will be making unannounced checks of job centres to see how his recommendations have been implemented and if they are making things better. THE WCA is used to determine eligibility for employment and support allowance.

This move will help to continue to improve the WCA, which, despite Harrington’s review, is still receiving heavy criticism from people with disabilities, according to Mark Lever, chief executive of the National Autistic Society. “We [NAS] continue to hear of significant problems in the WCA system for those with autism and other ‘hidden’ disabilities,” Lever said. “Many people tell us they find the process extremely stressful and that their needs are overlooked by assessors who don't understand what autism is. Following the assessment, many adults with autism have received an inappropriate level of support, which fails to meet their needs, and some have been left bereft of support altogether.  “Many people with autism want a job but need support to be able to work. An incorrect assessment can have a devastating impact, meaning that people are less likely to get the help they need to find a job and face financial hardship. “Professor Harrington has asked the NAS and other charities to make recommendations for how the WCA could be improved further. We urge Ministers to push these forward quickly in order to prevent more of society’s most vulnerable from being left impoverished. It is essential that the Government supports those with autism and other disabilities so that they can contribute to the workplace and society as they wish to.”  

Professor Harrington will complete a second review of the WCA later this year, as part of the government’s strategy of keeping it under independent review for five years to ensure it is working well.