Opinion Former Article

Rethink: Independent review of fit-for-work tests does not go far enough

The latest review of the Government’s controversial Work Capability Assessment (WCA) fails to go far enough in recommending the changes needed to make it fair for people with mental illnesses, says CEO of Rethink Mental Illness, Paul Jenkins.

An independent review of the WCA, published today, set out the changes that need to be made the system. This is the fourth of five planned reviews, and is the first to be carried out by Dr Paul Litchfield.

Paul Jenkins, CEO of the charity Rethink Mental Illness said:

“I’m pleased that Dr Litchfield has recognised in his report that previous reviews have failed to fix the system for mental health claimants and that there is still a lot of work to be done.

“However, his recommendations do not go far enough and do not tackle one of the biggest flaws in the assessment process for people with mental illness, which is the way medical evidence is collected.

“Under the current system, claimants are expected to gather their own medical evidence from a professional such as a GP or social worker. Organising for written evidence to be submitted on their behalf can be very challenging for people with severe mental health problems. If you are too ill to do this and fail to produce your own evidence, you will simply be assessed without it being looked at. This penalises the most vulnerable.

“We think the DWP should be responsible for gathering evidence on behalf of people with severe mental illnesses who are too ill to do it themselves. Unfortunately, Dr Litchfield has not recommended this.

“However, we are pleased that Dr Litchfield has advised the Government that they need to redesign the paperwork, to make it clearer how important it is to submit medical evidence, but this won’t make a difference to those who are the most ill.

“We also welcome the fact that he has recognised the problem of benefits assessors not having proper mental health expertise and has made recommendations around improved training.

“While this review represents some positive moves in the right direction, the Work Capability Assessment process remains deeply unfair for people with a mental illness. This means some of the most ill and vulnerable people in our society are having benefits they are entitled to, wrongly taken away.”

ENDS

For more information, please contact Rachel Hobbs, Media Manager for Rethink Mental Illness on 020 7840 3138 or email rachel.hobbs@rethink.org

Notes to editors

Rethink Mental Illness is a charity that believes a better life is possible for millions of people affected by mental illness.

For 40 years we have brought people together to support each other. We run services and support groups that change people’s lives and challenge attitudes about mental illness.

We directly support almost 60,000 people every year across England to get through crises, to live independently and to realise they are not alone.

We give information and advice to 500,000 more and we change policy for millions.




Rachel Hobbs 
News and Media Manager, Rethink Mental Illness
0207 840 3138
Tweet me! @Rachel_Rethink

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