Concerns raised about Incapacity Benefit reassessment

The process of inviting people who claim Incapacity Benefit to be tested on their ability to work will begin this week. The Government plans to get the one-and-a-half million people in the UK who receive the benefit to take part in a Work Capability Assessment in its drive to reduce the number of long-term claimants.

However, concerns have been raised by service-user led organisations who believe the assessment is unfair for people with a mental illness. Bill Walden-Jones, Chief Executive of Welsh user-led charity Hafal, said:

“An independent review published last year advised the government that the assessment is inadequate for people with a mental illness. Even in its amended form it does not take sufficient account of the difficulties in assessing the affects of mental illness and fails to recognise its fluctuating nature.

“People with a mental illness often under-describe their conditions and in a test situation may feel compelled to please the person conducting the assessment. In many instances people will speak ambitiously and with confidence about getting and holding down employment while playing down the challenges still posed by significant symptoms of their serious mental illness. And in some cases these statements have not just been inspired by an optimistic outlook but by confusion or delusions resulting from their mental illness. DWP staff are often unable to spot such exaggerated or delusional statements.

“Obviously we are not advocating that service users over-play their symptoms. We want an honest and fair approach that is beneficial to our clients. Research has shown that people with a mental illness have a higher “want-to-work” rate than any disability group. We run a Big-Lottery-funded “Short Steps” project that empowers people with a mental illness in a positive and supportive way to return to work.”