A three judge panel of the Upper Tribunal has ruled that the Work Capability Assessment substantially disadvantages claimants with mental health problems, because the system is designed to deal with a high volume of claimants who can accurately report the way in which their disability affects their fitness to work.
The court ordered that the DWP has to take reasonable steps to address the disadvantage to people with mental health problems, but rather than specifying what those reasonable steps should be, ordered the DWP to carry out an investigation and then return to court to explain what steps they propose to take.
The claimants’ solicitor, Ravi Low- Beer of the Public Law Project said:
“Today’s ruling confirms what disabled people have been saying for years – although ignored by Ministers - that the Work Capability Assessment process is not fit for purpose.
Today, the court has considered the evidence, and has endorsed the view of the experts and NGOs that have repeatedly called for medical evidence to be sought and considered by the DWP at the early stages of a claim. It is up to all of us now to put pressure on the DWP to investigate – and then implement - real changes to the process without delay or prevarication, as the court has ordered. It is in everyone’s interests that the DWP changes course - if they continue to rush people with mental health disabilities through the process as it stands, more ill people will be wrongly refused support, more ill people will suffer a deterioration in their mental health as they try to navigate the appeal system, and more public money will be wasted.”
The DWP intend to fight the decision, however. A spokesperson said:
“We disagree with today’s ruling and intend to appeal. We believe we have made – and continue to make – significant improvements to the WCA process for people with mental health conditions. The percentage of people with mental health conditions who go into the support group for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) has more than tripled since 2010.”