THE BLOG

Victory for Welfare Campaigners Is a Step in the Right Direction

23/05/2013 12:38 BST | Updated 22/07/2013 10:12 BST

For many years now, we have been concerned about the way in which the welfare system is treating people with mental health problems. We have heard shocking stories from people through our infoline, local Minds and on our Facebook and Twitter about how the assessment process is flawed and how it fails to acknowledge the problems they face. We have been told how the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) is administered by people who lack sufficient training or understanding about mental health and how far too often the assessments are wrong. Most of all they have told us that they feel the WCA is unfair.

Mind, together with the charities National Autistic Society and Rethink Mental Illness, took the decision to intervene in a legal case involving two people with mental health problems who felt that the WCA didn't take sufficient account of their needs. We thought it was vital to intervene to communicate the experiences of the thousands of people who get in touch with us and help the court come to the right conclusion.

Today's court judgment is an important step forward in recognising that this whole process needs a thorough review and a fresh approach. The current system often fails to collect evidence from professionals such as GPs, social workers and psychiatrists who know the person best. It also requires people, who are sometimes seriously unwell, to gather their own evidence from professionals. This can be an impossible task particularly for people who may find leaving the house or making a phone call a struggle. The judges agreed with us that people with mental health problems, learning disabilities and autism are at a substantial disadvantage in the process and they have asked the DWP to look into whether they can improve their approach so that more evidence is collected and people get a fairer assessment.

It may seem strange that this issue required a court's decision to secure what feels like a commonsense approach. Many people with mental health problems, autism, and learning disability may struggle in this situation. However, we also know that many people with mental health problems, who are ready, would very much like to work but need the right kind of help and support to do this. Just yesterday a report from the Work and Pensions Select Committee raised concerns that the Work Programme is failing to help the most disadvantaged long-term unemployed. Whatever someone's situation, they need to feel that the WCA is a fair process - today's judgment suggests that it isn't.

It's not just in the interests of people with mental health problems to get the system right; it's in the interests of the taxpayer too. A lot of the waste comes from people being assessed incorrectly because additional evidence is not being collected and then people have to appeal to get the right outcome.

This time last year, I chose to stand down from the Harrington Review because I didn't feel that people with mental health problems were getting a fair deal. Now, I would strongly encourage the DWP to review their approach to mental health and employment. There is work developing on this as part of a wider disability employment strategy. For most people, changes can't come soon enough.

So today we celebrate this as a victory for people with mental health problems but we must remember that this is just the beginning and we need your help to keep up the momentum. Find out how you can help us by signing up as a campaigner.