The Westminster Government has announced plans to suspend the Work Focused Health Related Assessment (WFHRA) from July 19th and to “begin reassessing claimants currently in receipt of incapacity benefits for possible entitlement to Employment and Support beginning in October 2010.”
The WFHRA is currently undertaken with individuals in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) of the Employment Support Allowance and performed by a healthcare professional.
A statement on the decision by Dr James Bolton, Deputy Director for Health, Work and Well-being and Deputy Chief Medical Adviser, read: “The WFHRA’s suspension for the next 2 years will provide an opportunity for DWP to reconsider the WFHRA’s purpose and delivery.”
Mr Bolton added that the Government will implement a new programme called the Work Programme which “will offer an integrated package of support, providing personalised help for people who find themselves out of work, regardless of the benefit they claim.”
Discussing what the decision means for mental health service users Andrew Mulholland, Senior Regional Employment Officer at the Welsh mental health charity Hafal, said: “Hafal has for many years advocated for specialist support for people recovering from serious mental illness to access and retain education, training and employment.
“For example our Big Lottery-funded Short Steps project provides support to people recovering from serious mental illness and their carers who may be interested in work-related activity as part of their recovery. We have also campaigned vigorously and provided numerous education and training services across Wales to support people gain or regain employment.
“The system of medicals with non-specialist staff who often do not understand the challenges faced by our clients has proved ineffective and has caused considerable anxiety and distress to people often too vulnerable to challenge decisions that have no real thought behind them.
“We fully appreciate the need to encourage people to work if they are able to do so and of course, dealing with inappropriate claims will improve the situation for those who really need the benefit.
“We trust that whatever replaces the current approach is more sensitive to the complexities of serious mental illness.”
For information on Hafal’s Short Steps project please visit: http://www.hafal.org/hafal/shortstepsproject.php