The DWP’s disgusting attitude to finding that benefit assessments harm mental health is an opportunity to demand meaningful facts [Image: Getty].

You only have to read the comment columns under any article dealing with disability assessments on This Site to know that the new study is accurate – no matter whether three people were interviewed or 3,000.

Perhaps the researchers at Heriot-Watt and Napier had trouble talking to enough people before their suicidal feelings got the better of them. That’s a depressing thought but entirely in line with the trend among disability benefit claimants these days.

And yet the DWP dismisses the research because it referred to a small sample of claimants.

This is the same government department that refuses to follow up on the health of claimants it denies benefits for more than a couple of weeks after cutting them off – even though we all know huge numbers of them fall victim to poverty and starvation, their own ill-health, or – yes – suicide after a period of weeks or months since the cut-off date.

But let’s not get angry about it. This is an opportunity.

If the DWP disputes the findings of the Heriot-Watt and Napier research, let the DWP do some research of its own.

How about if the DWP follows up on, say, the last two years’ worth of work capability assessments, asking the same questions as the university researchers? That should produce a good, high number of responses (depending on how many are still alive).

We’ll need to know not only how many say their mental health had deteriorated, but also how many are found to have died – and the reasons for those deaths.

There will need to be some independent verification as well. It might be costly, but if the DWP wants to be taken seriously – after the many lies of the past…

Then let Damian Green put his money where his mouth is.

The Government’s fit-to-work tests for access to disability benefits are causing permanent damage to some claimants’ mental health, from which they are not recovering, a new study has warned.

The research, conducted by academics at Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt and Napier universities, found that the Work Capability Assessment experience “for many, caused a deterioration in people’s mental health which individuals did not recover from”.

It also established, through dozens of in-depth interviews of people who had been through the tests, that “in the worst cases, the WCA experience led to thoughts of suicide”. Mental health charities said the interviews’ contents “reflect what we hear from people every day”.

Responding to the study, a Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson appeared to dismiss the interviewees’ experiences as not statistically significant.

“Only thirty people were interviewed for this report, which fails to acknowledge any of the significant improvements we have made to our assessments – particularly for people with mental health conditions,” he said.

“Last year alone at least 35,000 work capability assessments took place in Scotland to help ensure people get the right level of support that they need.” In fact, 37 interviews were conducted for the study.

Source: DWP’s fit-to-work tests ‘cause permanent damage to mental health’, study finds

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