Inside, the DWP was appealing a May Upper Tribunal decision which found that the Atos work capability assessment discriminated against people with mental health conditions. Several months ago, the DWP was granted leave to appeal this decision.
The original action against the DWP was brought by the Mental Health Resistance Network. Two claimants represented by the Public Law Project argued that Atos work capability assessments discriminated against people with mental health conditions. As the Public Law Project’s Ravi Low-Beer told me here, the claimants wanted reasonable adjustments made to work capability assessments and the onus put on DWP to source medical evidence for ESA claimants who had mental health conditions at the start of their ESA claims.
The courts agreed with that direction – but the DWP wants the decision overturned. No matter that proposed changes may have improved things even slightly for people who must go through the appalling work capability process. No matter, even, that proposed changes may have improved things as far as the public purse goes – people found eligible for ESA from the start when they should be would not, obviously, need to take their case through the wildly oversubscribed and costly appeals process (which is not to forget that the government is about to make the appeals process even harder to access with its introduction of mandatory reconsideration for people wanting to appeal fit for work decisions).
“We believe we have made – and continue to make – significant improvements to the work capability assessment process for people with mental health conditions,” the DWP blathered to me in an email about its decision to appeal the Upper Tribunal decision on mental health claimants. I have my doubts about this (and plenty of them) and have written about that at length. The people in the video also have plenty to say about that.
Claimants talk about their experiences in the video. They also talk about the costs of the process – to them in an emotional sense and more generally, as a financial cost.
“I was managing my mental health really well until I got an ESA assessment,” one woman says. “After two weeks of distress, I ended up having to go into inpatient care, for three and a half weeks last year and two weeks this year. It cost the government and the NHS over £40k simply to to cover the cost of that crisis care. That crisis was manifest by ESA Atos and their assessment.” That, as we all know, is exactly the kind of maths and economics which makes perfect sense to Iain Duncan Smith and this government, and absolutely no sense whatsoever to anybody else.
Says Paula Peters:
“In 2011, I ended up in hospital for three months. I tried to take my own life for fear of waiting to be assessed under this cruel and callous system. I was hospitalised by the NHS for three months. I was held down and injected, because I have bipolar.”
She also makes this excellent point:
“If it can happen to us, it is going to happen to you. You can face your job cuts. You use the NHS – all of us use the NHS and they’re cutting back on all of that. I tell you something now. Any one of you can become sick. Any one of you can develop a devastating disability, or end up losing your job or livelihood like we all did and end up with devastating health problems.”