Living in fear of inaccurate work assessments

11 March 2011

An article in the Guardian this week covered the problems with work capability assessments but we’ve known for many years that there are serious difficulties for people with mental health problems ensuring that they get a fair and accurate assessment for incapacity and work-related benefits. 

People have told us that they live in real fear of being inaccurately assessed and either forced into work before they are ready, or threatened with losing their benefits.

Professor Harrington’s November 2010 independent review of Work Capability Assessment was rightly critical, especially on the lack of empathy between Jobcentre and Atos (the company providing assessments) staff and claimants, and highlighted the difficulty of assessing people with mental health problems or other fluctuating conditions. It’s vital that his recommendations are followed through quickly especially ensuring that Atos employ “mental, intellectual and cognitive champions” in each Medical Examination Centre to spread best practice and build understanding of these disabilities.

The good news is that the review asked Mind, Mencap and the National Autistic Society to provide recommendations on refining the mental, intellectual and cognitive descriptors used in assessments. Again, it will be important for this work to be introduced into assessments as soon as possible. People with mental health problems and cognitive difficulties must know that they are going to be treated fairly under the new system.