The Mental Health Resistance Network, supported by Disabled People Against Cuts, wil hold a vigil at the front entrance of the Royal Courts of Justice on Tuesday 8 July 2014 at 12 noon to 2pm to highlight important issues around the Work Capability Assessment Judicial Review for Mental Health Claimants.
Two years ago, two people who claim benefits on mental health grounds initiated a judicial review of the Atos Work Capability Assessment. The two people were supported by the Mental Health Resistance Network. In May 2013, the judges presiding over the case ruled that the WCA places mental health claimants at a “substantial disadvantage” and that the DWP should make “reasonable adjustments” to alleviate this.
Often mental health claimants struggle to provide further medical evidence to support their claim for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and may not be able to accurately self report how their mental health conditions affect them – either when completing forms or at face to face assessments. Many claimants are wrongly found fit for work and subjected to the stress of appealing the decision.
The claimants who brought the case, DM and MM, asked the court to rule that the DWP should be responsible for obtaining further medical evidence at every stage of the process to improve the chances of a more accurate decision being reached about whether a person is able to work or to start preparing for work and to avoid the need for a face to face assessment in cases where this would be especially distressing for the claimant. In addition, claimants who are at risk of suicide or self harm would be more likely to be identified. In such cases, regulations 29/35 would apply. These regulations are intended to reduce risk of harm but the DWP often fail to identify who they apply to.
DWP appeal Fails
The Department of Work and Pensions appealed the judgement. Their appeal arguments were mainly concerned with legal technicalities, but in December 2013 the judges issued a ruling that upheld the original judgement in May. The DWP did not launch a second appeal.
Reasonable adjustments to WCA
Under the Equalities Act of 2010, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is required to make “reasonable adjustments” to mitigate any disadvantages experienced by disabled people. The forthcoming hearing will be concerned with establishing what adjustments the DWP should make to the WCA process. We already know from the original hearing that they plan to run a pilot study to assess the “reasonableness” of obtaining further medical evidence. We want to ensure that any study will be fair, honest and approached with an open mind.
Unfortunately we find it hard to trust that this will happen.
In his witness statement of July 2013 Dr Gunnyeon, Chief Medical Advisor and Director for Health and Well-Being at the DWP wrote, “ESA was designed to be a different benefit from Incapacity Benefit (IB), being a functional assessment rather than a diagnostic one. The face-to-face assessment is a key part of this process as the only truly independent part of the process. Moving away from this would, I believe, be a retrograde step which would seriously undermine the way in which the assessment process has been conceived and designed. It would represent a return to the position in Incapacity Benefit (IB), where claimants were “written off” on the basis of their diagnosis”.
Most people would be amazed to learn that the DWP are fighting tooth and nail against having to consider a person’s actual problems when assessing them for benefits!
Come and Support the Vigil at the Royal Courts of Justice
From 12-2 pm, on the second day of the court case, Tuesday 8th July, 2014, at the front entrance of the Royal Courts of Justice, a vigil will take place to highlight the important issues around this case.
The address is Royal Courts of Justice, The Strand, London WC2A 2LL.
Buses 4,11,15,23,26,76,172 and 341 all stop at the front of the Royal Courts of Justice, 171, 188, 243, 521 and X68 stop at Kingsway and Aldwych Junction nearby.
Nearest underground station is Temple (District Line), Holborn (Central and Piccadilly Line) and Chancery Lane, (Central Line)
Please come and share your stories of how you have been affected by the Work Capability Assessment and support DM and MM, in the fight for justice.
If you can’t make the vigil, show your support on twitter and facebook
If you are unable to make it to the vigil in person, you can show your support on twitter and social media, #wcamentalhealth
Watch out for further announcements about how you can show support on social media
The MHRN have been low key about publicising this case. We have been too cautious about declaring that we have been vindicated. As a result, few people know that the WCA has been found by a court of law, involving rulings by a number of senior judges, to be failing mental health claimants so badly.
We believe that it is vital that people do know about this victory. After all, outrageous lies about disabled benefit claimants have been shouted from the rooftops in much of the national press. Yet where have the front page headlines about this victory been? Nowhere! We now want to rectify this by making as much noise as possible about the truth: that the WCA does not fairly assess people with mental health problems and there has been terrible suffering as a result.
Please spread the word about the MHRN/DPAC vigil, and about the court case, far and wide.