In a written parliamentary answer, Lord Freud has confirmed last week’s revelation by Benefits and Work that it has now been deliberately made harder for women claimants to qualify for the support group of employment and support allowance (ESA).
In our newsletter last month, we warned readers that:
“ . . . a new scoring system has been created to decide if claimants with mental health issues can get into the support group because of a risk of harm to themselves or someone else. The system has been deliberately designed to make it more difficult for women to qualify than men.
“For example, a man with a diagnosis of depression and a history of deliberate self-harm who is unemployed – generally the case for ESA claimants – will be eligible for the support group, according to the guidance.
“But a woman in the same situation will not be eligible for the support group. Instead, she will have to also show that an additional factor – such as being homeless or divorced –applies to her.”
This has now been confirmed by Lord Freud following a parliamentary question from the Countess of Mar:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the scoring for Work Capability Assessment applicants with mental health problems has been loaded to make it more difficult for women to qualify for the support group than it is for men; and, if so, why.
Lord Freud replied:
“The criteria for eligibility for the support group in Employment and Support Allowance remains the same for men and women.
“The updated guidance for healthcare professionals on the assessment of risk in claimants with a Mental Health condition was developed with input from senior psychiatrists. It differentiates between men and women in relation to suicide risk because the suicide rate in men is significantly higher than in women.
“The guidance makes clear that the assessment of risk needs to focus both on the claimant’s health and whether the claimant could cope with work-related activity.”