Mind claims victory in the face of Government opposition on Disability Discrimination Bill
Posted Thursday 27 May 2004
Mind hails report as victory for people with mental health problems over "discriminatory" discrimination law.
Mind, the leading mental health charity, is today claiming a victory in the ongoing passage of the Draft Disability Discrimination Bill through Parliament, as an expert committee charged with scrutinising the Bill upheld the charity’s points.
Only 24 per cent of people with diagnosed mental health problems in England are in employment. However, for those who have been excluded from work against their will, the current law offers little protection, covering mainly physical disabilities. In 85 per cent of Employment Tribunal cases involving people with mental health problems, the person was not deemed to meet the criteria for disability under the current Act (1).
The Joint Committee on the Draft Disability Discrimination Bill, which published its findings today, took on board three key points made by Mind, despite objections from the Government, which claimed that current law already offers people with mental health problems sufficient protection.
In several rounds of evidence submitted to the committee, Mind said that current legislation creates inequality between people with mental health problems and other disabled people, and is itself discriminatory. Specifically, the charity asked for three changes:
- Current law requires a person to have a clinically well-recognised illness before they can be classified as disabled. Mind argued that this requirement, which is not the case for people with other disabilities, is discriminatory. The Committee’s report upholds this, recommending that the Government remove the requirement from the new Bill.
- The list of day-to-day activities that must be affected by a person’s disability are currently geared heavily towards physical disability. Today’s report recommends that the Government add three new activities which will allow people with mental health problems to be given the same protection as those with physical disabilities
- People with mental health problems are only covered by disability discrimination law if their condition is long-term – ie, lasting more than 12 months. The Committee has recommended that this be altered to include people who experience separate periods of depression totalling six months in any two-year period.
Although Mind would like to see the two year time limit removed from the "long-term" requirement, the charity is hailing the recommendations as a victory for common sense and fair treatment of people with mental health problems.
Speaking today, Mind’s policy Director Sophie Corlett, said:
"Every year, thousands of people with mental health problems are being unfairly discriminated against, and current law gives them absolutely no protection. It is high time for a new approach which will give people with mental health problems equal rights with people with physical disabilities. We are very pleased that the Joint Committee has thrown its weight behind Mind’s argument, and we are looking forward to a swift response from the Government, followed by a new Bill which will protect the rights of people with mental health problems to equality in employment, education and access to goods and services."
The charity is now hoping for a Government response before Parliament goes into recess in July.
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From The Institute of Employment Studies Annual Report 2002