MP worried over work assessments for people with mental health issues
MP Julian Huppert has raised concerns that Cambridge residents with mental health problems are being wrongly declared fit for work and threatened with loss of benefits if they fail to comply.
He has taken up the issue with Work and Pensions Minister, Mark Hoban claiming that the government’s Work Capability Assessment is not working for people with mental health issues.
“Too many of my constituents are being found fit for work when they are not, and are becoming trapped in a distressing and expensive cycle of appeals and reassessments,” he told Mr Hoban. “Too much of the decision making is inaccurate and too often the WCA and related processes worsen people’s mental health.
“I want to see the routine collection of additional medical evidence prior to assessment, a common sense approach to reassessments, access to advice and support, and assessors with a genuine expertise in mental health conditions to be available at each assessment.”
He said some people were being asked to take steps back to work under threat of sanctions or a loss of benefit if they fail to comply.
“I am concerned that the anxiety created by punitive sanctions is adversely affecting people’s mental health and pushing them further away from the work place,” he added. “This is completely contrary to the aim of the WCA, which should be to help people towards finding meaningful and suitable employment.
“Establishing a system that works with, rather than against, people with mental health problems is absolutely essential in building trust in the WCA and enabling it to serve its ultimate purpose.”
Julian said later: “We cannot have a one size fits all assessment which fails to take into account a person’s medical history and background and which is carried out by someone without expertise in the field.
“Mental health issues can be extremely complex. People do recover, however, and they can return to the workplace but not if they are bullied into doing so. Pushing a person back into work before they are mentally fit causes anxiety and forces them into appeals and reassessments which inevitably puts more burden on the taxpayer. This shows a lack of compassion and makes absolutely no sense.”