Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Work Capability Assessments discriminate against vulnerable claimants

So judges have ruled today in favour of two claimants with mental health problems who claimed  that the test for sickness benefit would discriminate against them. The law requires that the government should make reasonable adjustments to avoid discrimination. The judges at the Upper Tribunal ruled that the Work Capability Assessment puts people with mental illness, autism and learning difficulties at a substantial disadvantage.

Work Capability Assessment (WCA) tests, are designed to measure a person's entitlement to Employment and Support Allowance. ( ESA) They are supposed to determine whether someone is fit for work. They are run by a French company Atos on behalf of the government. They have proved controversial with the claimants being subjected to these assessments. In fact, according to the the government's Public Affairs Committee, the Department of Work and Pensions' decisions have been overturned in 38% of appeals.

Lawyers for the two individuals who won their legal challenge today argued that where the claim is from someone with a mental health problem, it should be the government's responsibility to seek additional medical evidence. Under the current system, evidence from a professional, such as a GP or a social worker,is expected to be provided by the claimants themselves. There is no obligation for the DWP to collect this evidence, even on behalf of the most vulnerable - apart from in rare cases.

Almost 20 000 people are assessed each week for ESA in England , Wales and Scotland - these are figures provide by the DWP. More than a third of these people are claiming primarily for mental health problems, meaning thousands of people each month are going through a process that puts them at a substantial disadvantage.

UK charities; Rethink Mental Illness, Mind and the National Autistic Society all intervened in the case to provide evidence based on the experiences of their members and supporters. Mind's chief executive Paul Farmer said: "The judgement 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 those with mental health problems."

A spokesperson for the DWP said: "We disagree with today's ruling and intend to appeal."

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Fiddling while Rome burns

So the country is in a mess, I think we can all agree on that. So what are the Tories doing about it? OK we all know that there is a Coalition Government but the Conservatives are the major partner, both in numbers and influence.

So instead of concerning themselves with addressing the multitude of problems our country face, the Tory party are doing what they do best; bickering among themselves about their favourite subject - Europe and the European Union, endlessly. They have been banging on about this for weeks. 

Truth be told they have been banging on about this for forty years! We joined what was then the Common Market in January 1973 and they have not stopped bickering about it since.

This week the new unemployment figures were released. The Office for National Statistics announced a small increase in unemployment to 2.52 million.

The numbers of NEETS (Young people not in employment, education or training) is just under one million. That is more than one in seven 16 to 24 year olds. This is according to the Work Foundation who go on to say: "The UK has experienced the fastest rise in youth unemployment of any country in the G8 since the start of the recession and now has the third worst levels in the OECD."

There are 660 000 people in the UK affected by the bedroom tax.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, in a report out this week: "Income inequality increased by more in the first three years of the crisis to the end of 2010 than it had in the previous twelve years." 

The report goes on: "After taxes and transfers, the richest 10 per cent of the population in OECD countries earned 9.5 times the income of the poorest 10 per cent in 2010, up from 9 times in 2007."

So are the Tory Party occupying themselves with these problems? No, they would prefer to posture and preen and endlessly discuss something that isn't going to happen until 2017 if at all!