The Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland has published their report following an investigation into the benefits system.
The investigation relates to the tragic case of Ms DE who committed suicide in 2011, shortly after being informed by the DWP that she was no longer entitled to Employment Support Allowance and would be transferred to Jobseekers allowance, in spite of her physical and mental health conditions.
The Commission has highlighted flaws in the benefits system and said that the DWP decision was made in spite of insufficient information about her mental health and that the assessment process needed to be more sensitive to mental health issues.
George Kappler, Chief Social Work Officer, who Chaired the investigation, says,
“We were asked to investigate the sad case of Ms DE. Our investigation raised numerous concerning issues about the DWP and Atos process.
Ms DE should have been supported as a vulnerable claimant. We found a lack of sensitivity to individual circumstances.
We thought the assessment process was flawed and needs to change in order to be fair to individuals with mental health problems.”
You can find a copy of the full report available here.
Keith Dryburgh, CAS Policy Manager for Citizen’s Advice Scotland gave a response to the Commission’s statement:-
“For years now we have been consistently pointing out the serious flaws we see in the Work Capability Assessment system for the Employment Support Allowance (ESA).
“The Mental Welfare Commission today highlights one particularly distressing case, but it would be wrong to imagine that such cases are unusual. ESA cases are the single biggest issue that we see in the Scottish CAB service. These cases include people with both mental and physical health problems who have been judged ‘fit for work’ when they are very clearly not, which causes them great distress and pushes many of them into poverty.
“In 2010/11 the Scottish CAB service saw 36,827 ESA cases. In 2012/13 we saw 75,967. That’s an increase of 106%. Significantly, 61% of the appeals we undertake for ESA clients are successful, which shows there are endemic problems in the original decision process.
“So anyone who is having problems with ESA or any other benefit should know that they can get free, expert help and advice from the CAB. But it’s very clear that there are very serious flaws in the whole system, and that this is still affecting a large and growing number of people. The government needs to over-haul the system and tackle these flaws before anyone else has to suffer unnecessarily.”