DWP Ignoring Faults in Fit for Work Tests
Introduced in 2008, "fitness for work" tests have been a huge topic for debate that refuses to go away. The tests have led to injustice for thousands.
If deemed "fit for work" you are no longer entitled to state benefits for your disability and you will have to claim Job Seekers? Allowance. Even if you are found not to be fit for work, you could still be found "fit for work related activity? which means that you would have to attend interviews at the Job Centre and may be required to attend courses.
Those with mental health challenges are often left destitute, unable to work and unable to claim state benefits. Many people are concerned about the test used to assess eligibility for ESA, on the basis that it is not sufficiently geared to assessing the needs of people with mental health issues. This was recognised in the High Court recently, when a 3 judge panel found that the work capacity assessment (WCA) is categorically unfair to people with mental health issues.
3 charities that backed the judgment, Rethink Mental Illness, Mind and the National Autistic Society (NAS), all celebrated the victory. They called for the current system of "fit to work" tests to be overhauled.
The DWP has said that they will be appealing the High Court decision.
Fit For Work Tests on Trial
Since March 2011 until March 2014, if you are receiving benefits for your disability you will be asked to go through a WCA rather than the personal capability assessment for re-assessment. Under the personal capability assessment, an approved healthcare professional trained in handling incapacity benefit claims would assess your claim and provide advice to the DWP.
Under the current system, evidence to support your claim is to be provided by a professional such as a GP, or support worker, who knows how your health difficulties affect your ability to work.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) are under no obligation to collect this evidence, even for those who are unable to do so for themselves. Collecting formal evidence is a difficult task for those with mental health issues, who can sometimes struggle with concentration and motivation.
The government, with the help of Atos, the company contracted to carry out the WCA are re-assessing people at an alarming rate of 11,000 people a week.
As pointed out by Mark Lever, chief executive of the National Autistic Society, by the very nature of the condition autism, individuals struggle to voice how their disability affects them putting them at a major disadvantage when collecting their own evidence.
The same problem is faced by people with other mental health conditions, such as depression. Depression is often so debilitating that individuals are unable to even understand that their symptoms are depressive in the first place. Explaining how their illness affects their life is then difficult, as they are unable to imagine a life without depression.
Expensive Appeals Process
Through the "fit for work" assessment, about 40% of those found to be fit for work have appealed that decision. 40% of these appeals have been successful. However, the appeals process is costly and the bill handed to the state at the end is a massive "50 million a year. Along with the mounting backlog, the tribunals service has had to up staff levels to cope with the rise in appeals claims.