It may have taken almost a month and a half, but judges have agreed to let the Department for Work and Pensions appeal against the judgement that the work capability assessment discriminates against people with mental health problems.
According to the Mental Health Resistance Network the DWP was denied permission to appeal on the first attempt.
Iain Duncan Smith’s lackeys then resorted to a second route – applying directly to the Court of Appeal – and it was this court that granted permission.
A spokesperson for the Mental Health Resistance Network said: “This is not the news we wanted, but the Tories were never going to give up without a fight as they are desparate to destroy our welfare state.
“Needless to say we will be fighting back.”
Vox Political was one of many who reported, back in May, that a judicial review had ruled that the work capability assessment actively discriminates against the mentally ill.
The tribunal found that, no matter how ill or even delusional a person may be, the system places on them the responsibility for gathering their own medical evidence and sending it in – otherwise the material will not be considered.
For the DWP to win at appeal, it will have to prove that this is possible for anyone, no matter how severe their mental illness may be.
The current system, for which the DWP lost the judicial review, means that paperwork sent in by anyone else on behalf of a patient with mental illness may be ignored and their ability to work judged using evidence from a 15-minute interview with a stranger who is unlikely to have had any mental health training, and who has no idea what expert opinion has to say.
Vox Political said at the time that we all knew Iain Duncan Smith would not accept this. That prediction has been borne out by current developments.
Paul Jenkins, CEO of Rethink Mental Illness, said after the tribunal decision that it meant the government should halt the mass reassessment of people receiving incapacity benefits immediately, until the system is fixed.
Does anybody think this has happened?
If not, then the government has been acting illegally for almost a month and a half. It is to be hoped that the appeal tribunal takes this into account when considering its decision. If assessments have continued, then the DWP has shown flagrant disregard for the legal process.
Such behaviour would also add emphasis to the Black Triangle Campaign’s comment in May, that the assessment system was “completely at odds with the government’s repeated insistence that mental health is a top priority”.
The campaign’s spokesperson said it was “sad that it took a court case to force the DWP to take action”.
It’s even more sad that the only action so far has been an appeal against the decision.
Some commentators speculated that Iain Duncan Smith might introduce retroactive legislation to re-legalise the work capability assessment – as he did with workfare after Cait Reilly and Jamieson Wilson won their cases against the department.
Unfortunately for him, the current controversy involves a breach of the Equalities Act, which has far-reaching effects.
If he tries to repeal it, we’ll know two things for sure:
1. Iain Duncan Smith is a dangerous fool.
2. The Coalition government has no respect for the rule of law.
To be honest, we knew both of those already.