Archive for July, 2012

A Major Step Towards Justice?

July 26, 2012 1 comment

There are only three problems with the WCS:

Work: Is undefined, it certainly has little to do with making toast, feeding cats, what car you drive.

Capability: Is undefined, it is clearly approached stereotypically, and any system that declares terminally ill people fit for work is is not fit for purpose.

Assessment: Is undefined, and from widespread reports is applied inconsistently, subjectively, secretly, and narrowly….

Well done to MM and DM who had the strength and bravery to fight this case despite Mental Health issues.  One can only hope that with this; two no doubt glowing appraisals of ATOS next week by Panorama and Dispatches; calls for its scraping by the BMA; widespread dissatisfaction and anger against it from the unions and mental health charities; something will be done about this cruel regressive, inconsistent, and stereotyped approach to dealing with illness.   This is a prime example of the millionaires in the Tory coalition kicking the cat, if ever I saw one.

The cost of failure is people’s lives….  All too literally in several cases. People should not have to hurt or kill themselves to demonstrate that they are mentally ill.  The WCA as it stands is little more than a witch-hunt.  Anything you do to help yourself recover from illness is counted against you.  You could argue that being moved to JSA isn’t all bad, but for most it is a reduction in income, and exposure to piss poor jobs market that the government consistently misreports  (see article one and article two) ; and if the government can flagrantly break the law on discrimination via the WCA what guarantees that those with Mental Health issues forced to seek work will not face similar if not worse discrimination in their search for the elusive jobs in the worst economic conditions for 100 years!

High Court rules Work Capability Assessment

The High Court has today granted permission to two disabled people to bring a claim for judicial review against the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to challenge the operation of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA).

WCAs are face to face interviews carried out by healthcare professionals (HCPs) employed by Atos Healthcare (a private contractor), to assess disabled people’s entitlement to Employment and Support Allowance (a sickness benefit that has replaced the old Incapacity Benefit). Each existing recipient of Incapacity Benefit is now being assessed for eligibility for ESA, at the rate of some 11,000 people per week. WCAs have been the subject of serious criticism by all relevant stakeholders in civil society including doctors and NGOs working on behalf of disabled people.

The present case concerns some of the problems with the system as experienced by people with mental health problems. Although medically trained, Atos HCPs typically have very limited knowledge of mental health. The interviews are often hurried, and rely on applicants to explain the limitations on their ability to work.

This is a serious problem for people with mental health conditions who lack insight into their conditions, whose conditions fluctuate in seriousness, or who cannot easily talk about their disability. Such people are placed at a substantial disadvantage in navigating the system. Even if they appreciate the need to get expert medical evidence for themselves, they are often less able to navigate the system successfully and to obtain the medical report that they need. The Equality Act 2010 requires the DWP to make reasonable adjustments to avoid such disadvantage.

The reasonable adjustment to the process that the claimants seek is for medical evidence to be sought by the Atos HCP and the DWP at the very outset of the claim. This would ensure that very sick people for whom having to go through a WCA would be extremely distressing are exempted from the process, and for those that do attend a WCA, the assessment of fitness to work takes place in the correct medical context, so that dangers associated with forcing people back to work are correctly identified.

At present, the DWP do not routinely ask for expert medical report from an applicant’s community-based doctor. The judge has held that it is arguable that this failure is a breach of the duty to make reasonable adjustments, and is therefore unlawful.

In granting permission to apply for judicial review, the judge stated: “I consider that it is reasonably arguable that the reasonable adjustments required by the [Equality Act 2010] include the early obtaining of independent medical evidence where the documents submitted with the claim show that the claimant suffers from mental health problems and that this has not been done, or at least not done on a sufficiently widespread basis”.
The claimants, known as MM and DM, were granted anonymity by the court. Their solicitor, Ravi Low-Beer of the Public Law Project said:
“The present system results in many thousands of unnecessary appeals at great public expense, with a high success rate. What is not counted is the cost in human misery for those people who should never have had to go through the appeals process in the first place. This could be avoided if doctors were involved in the assessments at the outset. The Government’s policy of by-passing doctors is inefficient, unfair, and inhumane. We gain heart from the court’s finding that as a matter of law, it is arguable that something has to change.”

For further information contact Ravi Low-Beer on 543 5944
or Adrian Lukes on 543 5946.
Public Law Project (PLP)
PLP is an independent, national legal charity which aims to improve access to justice for
those whose access is restricted by poverty, discrimination or other similar barriers. To
fulfil its objectives PLP undertakes research, policy initiatives, casework and training
across the range of public law remedies.
For more information on our work, events and publications:

Background Reading:

Public Law Project

GPs call for work capability assessment to be scrapped

e-petition: Petition to Abolish Work for your Benefit/Workfare Schemes in the UK

July 25, 2012 Leave a comment


Responsible department: Department for Work and Pensions

We want to abolish work for your benefit/workfare schemes in the UK.

People selling their labour should be fairly remunerated for their work at the normal level paid for the tasks they perform and treated in the same way as a standard employee with full rights and representation if requested.

These are the basic rights of any worker in a modern democratic society.

Workfare is effectively forced labour and is therefore illegal in the UK.

Categories: Petition, Petitions, Workfare Tags:

Petition: Make Atos Healthcare a “public authority” for freedom of information purposes.

July 25, 2012 Leave a comment


Make Atos Healthcare a “public authority” for freedom of information purposes.

Responsible department: Ministry of Justice

The work of Atos Healthcare is almost entirely made up of providing a public service having been awarded DWP’s disability medical assessment work. And yet, the public has no recourse to examine how it uses the hundreds of millions of pounds it receives for doing work at the bidding of the DWP and its policies, despite this being the subject of parliamentary enquiry.

The Minstry of Justice should designate Atos Healthcare a public authority for the purposes of its work on medical assessments for DWP decision makers, including access to the LiMA system.

Categories: Petition, Petitions

Opportunity to Provide Feedback on Work Capability Assessments experience

July 25, 2012 Leave a comment

From Benefits and Work:

Professor Harrington has made a call for evidence for his third review of the work capability assessment.  He especially  wants to hear from claimants about whether all the changes he has introduced mean that Atos and the DWP now deal with you more fairly and effectively.

Yet, astonishingly, there is nowhere for claimants to answer the questions he puts to you.  Instead, the DWP have buried the questionnaire in a .pdf file which cannot be written to unless you own software costing hundreds of pounds.

The only way claimants can take part is either by printing off the document, and then writing the answers by hand and posting them to Harrington or by trying to copy, paste and reformat all the questions into another document to create their own questionnaire.

In addition, the call for evidence went out just before the summer holidays and ends on September 7th, just as schools go back.  This means that it has attracted very little attention from charities and other organisations that might otherwise be encouraging claimants to get involved.

So, to help you take part, Benefits and Work has done two things.

We’ve created an online version of the questionnaire you can complete.  Your answers will be emailed to you and you can then check them and forward them to Harrington’s team.

We’ve also created a text version of the questionnaire, so if you prefer you can type in that and then send your answers to Harrington.

Make no mistake, this review matters.

The DWP and Atos have faced ever growing criticism of the WCA, with even GPs calling en masse for it to be scrapped and two TV investigations of the WCA being broadcast next week.  Their response has always been that they are putting into place all Harrington’s recommendations and that, as a result the WCA is greatly improved.

If you agree that it has got better it’s important that you show your support for the changes to silence the critics.  If you think it hasn’t, then it’s equally important that you make it as hard as possible for Grayling and Iain Duncan Smith to use Harrington as a defence.

There’s a series of questions about issues such as whether telephone and written communications have improved, whether medical examinations are better and whether the WCA is now fair and effective.  There’s also an ‘anything else’ box you can use to address issues like recording medicals and waiting times, for example.

Harrington particularly wants to hear from claimants who have had more than one WCA, but he does also want opinions on fairness and effectiveness from claimants who have only had one.

And because personal independence payment, which begins replacing DLA from April of next year, is assessed using a very similar system to the WCA, whatever advantages or failings there are in the WCA will almost certainly be reproduced for DLA to PIP transfers.  Because of the dramatic effect that DLA/PIP in particular has on living standards, your evidence could literally change people’s lives.

So, if you’ve had a WCA, please complete the questionnaire.   And if you can post details on forums you use, forward this newsletter to a friend and ask any charities you’re involved with to encourage members to take part as well, we can ensure that Harrington hears the truth.

Further Reading:

Profile of Prof. Michael Harrington

Correspondence about LIMA and ATOS

GPs call for work capability assessment to be scrapped


July 25, 2012 Leave a comment


Monday 30 July.

Dispatches.  8pm,  Channel 4
“Using undercover filming, reporter Jackie Long investigates the shocking processes used to assess whether sickness and disability benefit claimants should be declared fit for work.”

Disabled or faking it?  8.30pm,  BBC2
“Panorama investigates the government’s plans to end the so-called ‘sick note culture’ and their attempts to get millions of people off disability benefits and into work. In Britain’s modern welfare state, millions are being paid to private companies to assess sick and disabled claimants but is the system working? Or are new tests wrongly victimising those who deserve support the most?”

Using the Law to Fight Cuts to Disabled People’s Services

July 25, 2012 Leave a comment
Categories: Health, Law, Mental Health Tags: , , ,

A petition calling for David Cameron to appoint a Cabinet minister for mental health

July 24, 2012 Leave a comment

Responsible department: Department of Health

A new report, from the London School of Economics, suggests the NHS is failing mental health patients. Mental illness accounts for 23% of the total burden of disease, yet receives only 13% NHS expenditure. Professor Lord Layard, of the LSE Centre for Economic Performance, has called for a designated Cabinet minister to reflect the burden of mental illness on society.

Read a review of the report here:

Read the full report here:

Categories: Uncategorized

Petition: Get your MP to be a Mental Health Champion

July 24, 2012 Leave a comment

From Rethink Mental Illness

Breaking news – we’ve helped make mental health a local priority!
We’ve worked with the Government to develop the new mental health framework that Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister is launching today. It is a major achievement! It puts us at the heart of making the NHS, councils, schools, employers and others take responsibility for improving mental health in their communities. And now it’s vital that you *get your MP to play their part* in ensuring this happens – here’s how you can help…

e-petition: ATOS assessments

July 24, 2012 Leave a comment


ATOS assessments

Responsible department: Department for Work and Pensions

We are concerned by reports of a high number of genuinely ill and disabled people, including those who are terminally ill, wrongly being declared fit for work by ATOS medical assessors.

These errors cause hardship and distress to some of the most vulnerable members of society and cost the tax payer large sums in appeals.

We therefore petition the government to look into the process of these medical assessments and ensure that the necessary changes are made to create a fair system that protects the sick and disabled.

Thought for the day!

July 23, 2012 Leave a comment

“How can you believe when they’ve forced you to thieve from yourself”

The Bolshoi, Crack In Smile. Lindy’s Party (1987)

Categories: Uncategorized
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