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A judicial review has ruled that the test used to decide whether people are fit for work actively discriminates against the mentally ill.
The tribunal concentrated on the issue of supporting evidence, and found that – under the current system – no matter how ill or even delusional a person may be, they are responsible for gathering their own medical evidence and sending it in. Otherwise, the material will not be considered. For someone with a severe mental illness, this may prove impossible.
Paperwork documenting a patient’s history of mental illness may be ignored and their ability to work will be judged using evidence from a 15-minute interview with a stranger who probably has no mental health training and no idea what the experts have to say.
Reporting the victory, the Black Triangle Campaign wrote: “The judgment that the DWP is in breach of the Equality Act is a huge victory for everyone affected by severe mental illness, but it’s sad that it took a court case to force the DWP to take action.
“What makes it even harder to stomach is that it’s completely at odds with the government’s repeated insistence that mental health is a top priority… they are penalising the very same group by forcing them through this discriminatory process, which is putting lives at risk.”
Paul Farmer, chief executive of the charity MIND wrote: “The judgment 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 people with mental health problems.”
And Paul Jenkins, CEO of Rethink Mental Illness said: “Now that the court has ruled that these tests are unfair it would be completely irresponsible to carry on using them. The Government must halt the mass reassessment of people receiving incapacity benefit immediately, until the process is fixed.”
We have yet to hear what Iain Duncan Smith has to say. Don’t hold your breath; you know in advance he won’t accept this.