Welfare Reform or Workfare?

As somebody with experience of mental distress and the benefits system, I want to let you know how concerned I am about the new Work Capability Assessment (WCA), which is used to assess which stream of employment benefit a person receives. Under the   new system, many people with mental health problems are being assessed as fit for work before they are ready – sometimes even when they are still  receiving psychiatric care.   This means that they will be placed on Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) and moved into a benefits system with far more sanctions attached and far less return-to-work support than is available to those on Employment and Support Allowance. Whilst employment has a part in the recovery from mental problems, it is vital that the person take steps towards at a time and pace that is appropriate to them, and with the right level of support. Being pushed into employment too early can exacerbate mental distress and, in the worst cases, leave the person in a worse situation than they were in before. I believe the Work Capability Assessment is failing people with mental health problems on four fronts: staff with mental health problems in four fronts: staff carrying out the assessments do not have adequate mental health expertise; the assessment  does not take account of the fluctuating nature of mental health conditions; ; the assessments are too often carried out in open, noisy, rushed or insensitive settings; and the questions remains biased towards physical functions and conditions. I know how important these issues are from my own personal experience.  I agree with Mind, national charity in calling for better training for frontline staff carrying out the assessments, and forDWP decision makers to give greater weight to supplementary evidence such as testimonies from carers, GPs, or the individuals themselves. This would improve the whole process for everyone involved if implemented.

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