Mental Health Resistance Network
Wednesday 22nd May 2013
SENIOR JUDGES RULE THAT THE WORK CAPABILITY ASSESSMENT DISCRIMINATES AGAINST PEOPLE WITH MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS
The Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN) welcomes the judgement handed down today by judges in the Upper Tribunal in the case of the two claimants with mental health problems who have challenged the manner in which people with mental health difficulties are assessed for their fitness for work through the Work Capability Assessment (WCA).
The court held that the WCA process disadvantages people with mental health problems because they have greater difficulty than others in explaining to the Atos assessor how their condition affects their fitness to work. The solution is for Atos and the DWP to seek evidence from the claimant’s doctors and others in the community that know what they can do. But the DWP have consistently refused to take this step.
Those who have been claiming that the WCA significantly disadvantages people with mental health problems have been vindicated by today’s judgment. The court has ordered the DWP to put forward proposals for how they will go about ensuring that they have obtained further medical evidence from claimants’ own health care professionals to ensure that any difficulties people have with self reporting are properly taken into account. It is also vital that no one’s health is put at risk by any decision made by the DWP due to failure to obtain appropriate evidence.
In order to assess a person with mental health problems fitness for work it is necessary to obtain such evidence and this has not been the practice of the DWP and Atos in most cases. The judgment is clear: to routinely fail to consider evidence put forward by their own health care practitioners (the DWP current practice) places people with MHPs at a significant disadvantage which means that the current practice has been – and remains – discriminatory. We believe that many people would be spared needless distress if the DWP and ATOS sought and understood the medical histories of the individuals they seek to assess, rather than simply assessing a person’s short term functioning without taking into account the myriad of handicaps and difficulties they face in surviving on a daily basis.
The MHRN has supported the claimants’ case throughout as we believe that the WCA is not fit for the purpose of correctly identifying those people who should receive benefits. ATOS have not shown itself to be capable of fairly assessing people who are signicantly disadvantaged and subject to high levels of trauma and distress. Following on from the court’s decision, it is imperative that Atos assessors cease making inappropriate assessments, and put into immediate effect significant changes to their practices, to prevent further avoidable distress, trauma and suicides, and we call on people to continue to work together to fight against subjecting vulnerable people to this cruel process.
We are concerned at the language which has come to dominate this debate, and are outraged that unfounded DWP claims about levels of fraudulent claims are often simply parroted, resulting in claimants being increasingly viewed as scroungers. Time and time again the DWP has been shown to be misusing statistics in order to advance their ideological assault on the services that have been integral to making society in Britain fairer and more civilised. The misinformation that has surrounded the so-called ‘reforms’ to welfare undermines our democracy in so far as the public are agreeing to huge changes based of false perceptions.
We call on journalists to challenge this ideological assault and to ensure that those who are in genuine need are not subject to further trauma and distress as we all seek a way of making things bearable.
We do not believe that these so-called welfare reforms were ever intended to help disabled people back into work, or could ever achieve such an outcome when they are implemented so harshly and callously. Rather it is increasingly clear to us that these ‘reforms’ are part of a drive to bring down wages by creating a pool of desperate impoverished people who will be forced to accept the unacceptable in order to survive. In addition they are trying to boost the interests of the business owners and corporations such as the insurance company UNUM who have been instrumental in designing the WCA.
The MHRN intends now to focus on setting up a local centre where those who are affected by the myriad of cuts to services and benefits can come together to offer mutual support and to find ways of resisting the Tory onslaught together.
We remember those of our friends who have been driven to despair and suicide by the actions of this government, the DWP and Atos. We will continue to struggle in their memory in order to try and prevent needless deaths and trauma in the future.