Assessing the Work Capability Assessment
May 24th 2009
Campaigners have warned that thousands of people with mental health problems will be driven into poverty with the introduction of a new benefit, which forces those currently on employment and support allowance onto Jobseekers Allowance, or into jobs they are unable to cope with.
With the introduction of the Work Capability Assessment, a new medical assessment will be gradually rolled out to the 2.5 million currently on incapacity benefit, around 40 per cent of whom have mental health problems. The government wants to cut the number of disability claimants by one million by 2015, even if that means unemployment figures rise. Thousands of people who are already stuck in the benefits trap will be affected, many of whom will be pushed onto Jobseeker's Allowance.
Mental health charity Mind points out that the new assessment places all the emphasis on the individual to find work, yet applies no pressure to employers to recruit people with mental health problems. The charity revealed reveals shocking new evidence that employers are not willing to take on people who have experience of mental distress, and that they are failing staff by not providing adequate mental health support. With unemployment expected to hit two million by the end of the year, and many employees already anxious about the security of their jobs, the charity fears employers are not doing enough to protect the wellbeing of their staff. Mind found that one in four people had job offers withdrawn after disclosing a mental health problem, which is illegal under the Disability Discrimination Act.
Mind's Chief Executive, Paul Farmer, says: "While we welcome the government's commitment to provide extra support to get people back into employment, it won't work without requirements being put on employers. If businesses refuse to adapt their practices then people with mental health problems will not fit easily into the government's welfare reform proposals.
"Businesses must recognise that the health and welfare of their employees affects their bottom line, and that looking after staff who are experiencing mental distress makes economic sense, especially in the current financial climate."