Victory for welfare campaigners

Published on Friday, 24 May 2013 12:45
Written by Scott Buckler

Three judges have ruled that the procedure currently used by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to decide whether hundreds of thousands of people are eligible for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) disadvantages people with mental health problems, learning disabilities and autism

The judgment, which was made public at a high court hearing today, is the result of a judicial review brought by two anonymous claimants with mental health problems.

The charities Rethink Mental Illness, Mind and the National Autistic Society intervened in the case to provide evidence based on the experiences of their members and supporters.

The case centres on how evidence is gathered for the controversial Work Capability Assessment (WCA), the process used to determine whether someone is fit for work.

Under the current system, evidence from a professional such as a GP or social worker is expected to be provided by people themselves. There is no obligation for the DWP to collect this evidence, even on behalf of the most vulnerable claimants, apart from in some narrow circumstances.

Seeking evidence can be very challenging for people with mental health problems, learning disabilities or autism whose health or condition can make it hard for them to understand or navigate the complex processes involved in being assessed.

As a result, those who need support the most are frequently being assessed without this important evidence being taken into account.

It was ruled that the DWP must do more to ensure this sort of evidence is collected and taken into account. This means the current procedure for the WCA puts some groups at a substantial disadvantage.

The three charities have hailed the ruling as a victory for people with mental health problems, learning disabilities and autism who are being put through a process which puts them at a disadvantage.

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said:

Mind welcomes the tribunal's judgment, which has found that the claims process for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is unfair to people with mental health problems and that it has to change.

The judgment is a victory, not only for the two individuals involved in this case, but for thousands of people who have experienced additional distress and anxiety because they have struggled through an assessment process which does not adequately consider the needs of people with mental health problems.

Following this judgment, Mind hopes changes will be implemented quickly to ensure the claims procedure is fairer and more accurate.

Mind has campaigned to improve the assessment process for many years and we will monitor the situation closely to ensure people with mental health problems receive the benefits they are entitled to

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