Thursday, 5 December 2013

Roger welcomes Appeal Court decision that Work Capability Assessments disadvantage mentally ill

Roger has welcomed a decision by the Court of Appeal upholding a previous ruling that work capability assessments disadvantage people who are mentally ill or have learning difficulties. He has been concerned for some time that these assessments are not designed with the best interests of these vulnerable individuals in mind, leading to unwell people being deprived of support to which they are entitled.

Roger said: “I am really pleased that the Court of Appeal has upheld the ruling that Work Capability Assessments do not work fairly for people with mental health problems, learning difficulties or autism. The current system expects the claimants themselves to obtain all the necessary documents from their GP or social worker, even if they lack the capacity to understand what can be a complex process. This results in assessments taking place without the necessary evidence, leading to mistaken outcomes. The DWP must start taking on the responsibility to help collect evidence if the claimant is unable to do so.”

 Mental health charities including Rethink Mental Illness, Mind and the National Autistic Society have welcomed the ruling, and are calling on the Government to immediately stop using this dysfunctional assessment process. However, the Government refuse to recognise the truth of this finding and are refusing to pause reassessments in response to the court’s decision. A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said that there will be no effect on the day-to-day business of assessments, which would continue as usual.

In response, Roger commented: “Nothing better illustrates the nastiness of the Coalition’s policies than the treatment of those with mental illness. It is shameful that DWP refuse to take action in response to the court ruling. It is bad enough that for so long the Government have ignored the voices of ill and disabled people, their carers and the charities which represent them, but it is now also ignoring the findings of the UK’s legal system. The Coalition needs to start putting the wellbeing of its own citizens—not to mention respect for the legal process—above its blind ideological commitment to cutting the state.”

 The ruling took place in response to a judicial review initiated by two claimants, where the original judgment was that the assessments are unfair to those with mental health problems. Rather than accepting this ruling and changing the assessments to avoid disadvantaging people who are already vulnerable, the Department for Work and Pensions appealed against the judgment, causing the judicial review to be put on hold. This legal process can now resume, with a final ruling expected to be given in 2014 unless the DWP brings further legal action to delay the process.

Roger has tabled a written Parliamentary Question to the Department for Work and Pensions, asking the Secretary of State, Iain Duncan Smith, how he will change the way ESA assessments are carried out in light of the ruling and asking him to make a statement.

You can read Mind’s response to the ruling here: 

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