The Work and Pensions Committee has today released its full report on benefits assessments for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Personal Independence Payment (PIP). Based on evidence given by thousands of disabled people, the report makes recommendations for the Government to overhaul the assessment process.
Responding to the report, Ayaz Manji, Policy and Campaigns Officer at Mind, said:
“Support from the benefits system can help people with mental health problems to live independently and take control over their own lives. However this report highlights how badly the benefits assessment process is failing many people with mental health problems. More than half of people who appeal their benefit decision see it overturned, but for too many people, going through that process just isn’t possible because they are too unwell to face it. The Committee urges the Government to make benefits assessments more transparent so that people don’t need to go all the way to court to receive the financial support they need.
“The inquiry also revealed shocking stories of assessors who lacked even the most basic understanding of mental health. We need to see greater expertise and knowledge in mental health among assessors.
“The Government now owes it to the hundreds of people with mental health problems who shared their stories to this inquiry, and the thousands more going through these assessments, to take real and urgent action.”
Denise Martin, 50, has bipolar disorder and physical health problems such as fibromyalgia. She is a Mind campaigner and media volunteer, and was one of the people who travelled to Parliament to provide oral evidence to the inquiry. She said:
“None of us asked to become ill. I endeavoured to work most of my life and became too unwell to work. This is not a choice we make easily. It is all stacked against us. Predominantly, I have a mental illness that affects me quite severely. It is really, really tough and these assessments are adding to that. I do not think it should be allowed. I do not think anybody has the right to make me go home and cry because I have just had work capability assessment three weeks ago that is still playing on my mind…
“…I have not found any of these [assessments] over the years to really be…they have been pleasant, but they seem to just be going through a tick-box exercise in their mind, asking the questions; there is no kind of human warmth there. You are asked some quite painful questions, especially to do with mental illness.”
Read the full report
Read Denise's blog on why she decided to give evidence to the Inquiry