Benefit pilots will lay bare benefit test failings
Posted Monday 11 October 2010
Today 1700 people in Burnley and Aberdeen who currently claim Incapacity Benefit will be called to undergo a new test to see if they are fit for work or not.
Mind believes that the benefit test, the Work Capability Assessment, is not able to adequately assess whether mental health can affect someone’s ability to work and cope in the workplace, and is calling for a revision of the test before it is rolled out to over 1.5 million claimants nationwide.
Sophie Corlett, Mind’s Director of External Relations, said:
The benefit test being used in the pilots starting today has a fundamental problem when it comes to people with mental health problems – it does not do what it’s set up for, which is to distinguish accurately which people can work and which people can’t. The benefit test is the gateway to the welfare system, and without a benefit test that works, you cannot create a benefit system that works.
Over half of all benefit claimants have a mental health problem, so it should go without saying that any fitness to work test should thoroughly assess mental health and whether it presents a barrier to work and coping in the workplace. However, many people with mental health issues have found that the impact of their condition on their ability to work is barely recognised. The government wants to toughen up on benefit claimants while supporting those in genuine need – this system doesn’t identify those in genuine need.
The consequences of being wrongly declared fit for work can be devastating. People with mental health problems need vocational and health-related support to get them ready for a job again. Incorrectly putting these people onto Job Seekers Allowance will see a reduction in their benefit, less support for getting a job, greater pressure to get to work sooner, and financial sanctions applied if they fail. This could not only throw people into long-term poverty, but the distress could actively make their mental health problems worse, and make it even harder for them to get a job.
The Government has a tremendous opportunity to reform the system and has already made some positive moves by ensuring that people returning to work can keep some of their benefits. However, if reform is rushed through and not carried out in a thorough and rigorous manner it could end up making the same mistakes as previous reforms.
For more information, interviews and a range of case studies please contact Mind media office:
T: 020 8522 1743
Out of hours: 07850 788514
Mind are pleased to report that this press release was picked up in at least 85 online and press articles and 23 radio stations in the UK, on the day of its release.