Tests for disabled 'flawed model'

New work assessments for the disabled and people with health conditions will impose ''unnecessary angst'' and wrongly put the onus on clients rather than employers, CCS Disability Action Otago patron Donna-Rose McKay says.

Details of the tests, which start early next year, have been released to the Government's electronic tenders website in a Ministry of Social Development request for proposal.

Mrs McKay believed New Zealand was adopting the same ''flawed model'' as Britain, where work-testing the disabled was highly controversial.

''The process focuses on the person as having to overcome the barriers, but in reality for many people with impairment or many people who have an illness, the barriers are not with themselves; the barriers are with employment and other people's attitudes.''

It meant ''more hoops, more bureaucracy'' when opportunities were scarce.

''You can set someone up with everything they need, but there's no jobs available, and then how is the person going to feel?''

Work and Income expects up to 1000 clients to be referred for a ''work ability assessment'' between February and June next year, about 2000 in 2014-15, and about 3000 the next year, the proposal document said.

The provider would receive $650 (GST exclusive) for each completed assessment.

The process would take about three hours, which included a one-hour face-to-face assessment.

''This assessment will be done by a suitably qualified medical or health professional, who will take a fresh look at a person's ability to work, along with the supports and services they need to find and stay in work.

''The work ability assessment is intended to take a broader, holistic approach to the factors affecting a client's ability to work,'' the document said.

The assessment ''may help'' determine if the client was required to look for work, but would not be used as a test for receiving benefits.

Testing was a final step if a self-assessment and a structured interview had ''not resulted in sufficient information about their ability to return to work and what supports would be needed for them to do so''.

Dunedin disability researcher Chris Ford said the tests were likely to find most people able to perform some kind of work, taking no account of the wider economic situation.

In effect, this depressed wages in the employment market for everyone, he said.

- eileen.goodwin@odt.co.nz


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