Powerful new film captures real experiences of the Work Capability Assessment for people with mental health problems

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Posted on 13/12/2013

Tyneside Mind is launching a short film highlighting the real experiences of three local people with mental health problems undergoing the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), which is used to determine eligibility for the out-of-work benefit Employment and Support Allowance.

Tyneside Mind is launching a short film highlighting the real experiences of three local people with mental health problems undergoing the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), which is used to determine eligibility for the out-of-work benefit Employment and Support Allowance.

The film, ‘But I’m here for mental health – three stories of the Work Capability Assessment’  uses actors to portray the experiences of individuals who were deemed ‘fit for work’ by Atos Healthcare despite the severity of their mental health problems and the significant barriers they face to get into work.


The film is being released to coincide with the publication of the fourth annual Independent Review of the WCA by Dr Paul Litchfield. Mind has welcomed the recommendations made in this and previous reviews, but believes much more comprehensive reform is needed if experiences like those documented in the film are to be avoided.


The film tells the story of two men unfairly dismissed from work due to ill health and one woman whose sleep apnoea and depression prevent her from being able to work. A particularly poignant moment in the film is when one man, who can’t write because he has carpal tunnel syndrome, has to admit to his elderly mother that he has contemplated suicide since losing his job as she fills in the application form on his behalf. Another scene depicts a lady standing on a bridge thinking about ending her life because she has been told she is fit for work. The film uses reconstruction to depict service users’ real stories, interspersed with verbatim quotes from Tyneside Mind service users.


With funding from The Millfield House Foundation and support from Helix Arts and Tyneside Mind, the film has been produced by Meerkat Films to help raise awareness of the devastating impact this assessment process can have on vulnerable individuals with complex and fluctuating conditions.


Over a third of assessments involve people who have applied primarily due to a mental health problem and many more applicants experience a mental health problem alongside other illnesses or disabilities. Yet, as demonstrated by this film, the assessment is not suitable for people with mental health problems, and often actually pushes many people further away from the workplace by exacerbating their mental health problems and directing them to inappropriate support and expectations.

Stuart Dexter, Chief Executive of Tyneside Mind, said:

“At Tyneside Mind we help people every week with benefits-related enquiries, and our resources are increasingly stretched. The people we represent are still not getting a fair outcome from the Work Capability Assessment. The assessment process is not sensitive enough to recognise the impact a mental health problem can have on someone’s ability to work, and can cause a great deal of stress, especially for those who get an unfair decision and then have to go through a lengthy and costly appeals process. This film aims to highlight what it’s really like for the many individuals subjected to this process and urge the Department for Work and Pensions to urgently improve the system.”

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, commented:

“Our network of over 150 local Minds help provide support, information and advice to 300,000 people every year. An increasing number of those who come to us are concerned about losing financial support because of changes to their benefits. This powerful film highlights how the assessment process can have a negative and lasting impact on people with complex conditions, and is released to coincide with yesterday’s Litchfield Review. Mind has been providing evidence on behalf of people we support, like those who feature in the film, since these reviews began. Now after four years, we hope that the scale of the problems with the system, as demonstrated by this film, are recognised and the right steps are taken to overhaul a system which continues to let down the most vulnerable people in society.”

Steve*, whose experience of the Work Capability Assessment featured in the film, said:

“The whole assessment process was so traumatic that I really didn’t think I’d be able to recover from it, let alone talk about it. Unfortunately I know that there are so many others like me who have felt humiliated and had their views neglected. Tyneside Mind suggested I get involved with this project and I wanted to help because I feel it’s so important to raise awareness of the way vulnerable people are being treated. I hope this film will help change things so nobody else will have to endure what I did.”

Toby Lowe, Chief Executive of Helix Arts, said:

“This project shows how important it is that society hears the voices of those who are vulnerable. And, as this incredible film shows, the best way to do that is to enable people to work with artists to tell their own authentic stories. We all need to ask: ‘who is having their cultural voice heard?’.”

-Ends-


To view the film, please go to this section of Mind's website

Notes to Editors:

*Name has been changed to protect identity

For more information or to interview a spokesperson please contact the Mind media team on 020 8522 1743 or by emailing media@mind.org.uk

If you are a journalist in the North East with a regional media request please contact Stuart Dexter, Chief Executive of Tyneside Mind on 07528 807733 or by emailing stuart.dexter@tynesidemind.org.uk

About Mind:

•    Mind is the leading mental health charity in England and Wales. We provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. We campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding. 
•    Please note that Mind is not an acronym and should be set in title case.
•    Mind’s Infoline is on 0300 123 3393 and the Legal Line is on 0300 466 6463 (helplines open Monday – Friday 9am – 6pm). 
•    Website: www.mind.org.uk

About Tyneside Mind:

•    Tyneside Mind aims to work for a better life for people living in the Tyneside area who are experiencing mental health problems
•    They provide a range of high quality responsive services which include the views of service-users at all levels - working on the basis that recovery for ordinary lives is possible for everyone. 
•    They promote positive mental health by tackling stigma and promoting inclusion.
•    Website: www.tynesidemind.org.uk

About Helix Arts:

• Helix Arts is a local charitable trust that facilitates participative arts projects.   
• They work to transform the lives of the most vulnerable and marginalised groups, supporting disadvantaged people to make art, explore and share their incredible stories, and help people re-imagine their own futures.

About Meerkat Films:

•    Meerkat Films is an award winning production company specialising in TV and Film. 
•    They work across a range of genres including drama and documentary and have a vibrant portfolio demonstrating a wide variety of subjects.

About The Millfield House Foundation (MHF):

•    Founded in 1976, MHF awards grants to local projects seeking to improve the conditions of the most deprived people in Tyne and Wear. 
•    Their current priority is to promote social change by funding projects that inform discussion and influence public policy and attitudes, with the aim of diminishing social deprivation and empowering communities. 
•    They generously awarded a grant of £20,000 to produce the film.

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