A senior clergyman from Somerset is launching a campaign today, calling on Iain Duncan Smith to pause the mass reassessment of people with mental illness receiving incapacity benefit.
Dick Ackworth, former vicar and Archdeacon of Bath and Wells, has a son with bipolar disorder who was wrongly found fit for work by the DWP using the controversial Work Capability Assessment.
In May, as part of an ongoing Judicial Review of the Work Capability Assessment, three judges ruled that the process is unfair for people with a mental illness and puts them at a ‘substantial disadvantage’.
Despite this, the DWP is continuing to use the process to assess roughly 6,000 people a week with mental health problems.
With backing from the national charity, Rethink Mental Illness Dick’s petition calls on Iain Duncan Smith to temporarily stop reassessing people with a mental illness who are being moved from incapacity benefit to the new Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), until changes are made to the test, to ensure it’s fair.
The 76-year-old said: “If my son didn’t have parents to support him and push through a benefits appeal, I don’t know what he would have done. I really fear for other people who don’t have anyone to help them through such a difficult process. I try as much as I can to shield my son from the stress, but this has taken a real toll on me and his mother.
“It is intolerable that the government is putting people through so much stress and anxiety just to get the support they need. In many cases this unfair test is making people more ill. Everyone deserves the chance to be treated fairly.”
Paul Jenkins, CEO of the charity Rethink Mental Illness, which is backing the petition said: “The system flies in the face of equality legislation, which has been carefully developed over the last 50 years to protect people with disabilities. It creates the impression that the DWP isn’t too worried about getting it right, they’re just interested in slashing benefits, no matter what the human cost.
“I’m not saying people with severe mental illness cannot work. For some people work can be central to recovery and staying well. Those people should be offered support to get back into employment. What we are saying is that benefit tests should be fair and accurate, to ensure the most ill and vulnerable people in our society don’t slip through the net. It’s in everyone’s interests that we get this right. Inaccurate assessments lead to costly appeals and put further strain on the public purse.
“Until the WCA is fixed, the government must stop pushing people with mental health problems through this unfair process.”
You can sign the petition at www.IAgreeWithDick.org
For more information, contact Rachel Whitehead, News and Media Manager for Rethink Mental Illness on 0207 840 3138 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to editors
Rethink Mental Illness is a charity that believes a better life is possible for millions of people affected by mental illness.
For 40 years we have brought people together to support each other. We run services and support groups that change people’s lives and challenge attitudes about mental illness.
We directly support almost 60,000 people every year across England to get through crises, to live independently and to realise they are not alone.
We give information and advice to 500,000 more and we change policy for millions.
For more information go to www.rethink.org