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Vigil: This was taken when the case was appealed in October 2013.

Vigil: This was taken when the case was appealed in October 2013.

Does anybody fancy helping create a stir outside the Royal Courts of Justice next week? Don’t worry, you shouldn’t get arrested.

The courts will be the venue for the judicial review of government policy regarding claimants of Employment and Support Allowance who have mental health issues, from July 7-9. That’s between Monday and Wednesday next week.

On Tuesday (July 8), the Mental Health Resistance Network, supported by Disabled People Against Cuts, will be holding a vigil at the front entrance of the Royal Courts of Justice building on The Strand, between midday and 2pm.

The aim is to highlight the important issues around the case.

This should help: 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. The nearest underground station is Temple (District Line), Holborn (Central and Piccadilly Line) and Chancery Lane, (Central Line).

Anyone with stories of how you have been affected by the Work Capability Assessment is invited to come and share them – and support the fight for justice.

So how about it?

DPAC’s website has this to say about the judicial review: “Two people who claim benefits on mental health grounds initiated a judicial review of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), supported by the Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN). 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.

“The Department for 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.

“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.”

For those who cannot attend the vigil, it is still possible show your support on Facebook and Twitter, using the hashtag #wcamentalhealth

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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