Employment Law | WCA Puts People With Mental Health Problems At A Disadvantage

Judges at the Upper Tribunal have ruled that the Government’s Work Capability Assessment puts people with mental illness, autism and learning difficulties at a substantial disadvantage.

Two people with mental health problems, whose identities have been protected, brought a judicial review against the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), saying that their conditions mean they lack insight and can struggle to gather the right documents needed for a successful claim.

In addition, leading charities intervened in the case to provide evidence based on the experiences of their members and supporters.

Under the current system, claimants must provide evidence from a professional, such as a social worker or doctor to say that they cannot work, as the DWP is under no obligation to collect it.

However, the charities believe that the tens of thousands of people who go through assessments each month are put at a substantial disadvantage as a result of the process and have called on the Government to suspend use of WCA tests for the people they help.

A Chief Executive from one of the charities, hailed the judgement as a victory, not only for the two individuals involved in the case, but for the 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.

However, a spokesperson for the DWP said that the department disagrees with the ruling and intends to appeal, as it believes it has made significant improvements to the WCA process for people with mental health conditions.

Its press release states that the percentage of people with mental health conditions who go into the support group for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) has more than tripled since 2010.

The spokesperson added, the department is pleased that the tribunal made clear that there are safeguards built in to the WCA process to help ESA claimants and that it stated that the department is not in breach of its duties under the Equality Act.

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Mackrell Turner Garrett Solicitors in London