Guardian Letters – The unfairness of the capability test


I support the views expressed in several articles in your edition of 1 June (Experts: cuts create mental health crisisLettersWas listening to the doctor’s diatribe a part of the test?) relating to the government’s targeting of the most vulnerable in society, ie those afflicted with mental illness, in order to produce minimal savings. The personal capability assessment is aimed at depriving those who currently struggle to cope of a small amount of weekly financial support. This is not only necessary from a financial point of view, but has the even greater value to the recipient in that it provides some kind of security in an existence often ridden with anxiety and fear. It is little wonder that some who have been subject to the threat of having this removed have sadly been driven to take their own lives.

It is incomprehensible that any government should feel that those in this category would choose to pose as ill and “cheat the system”. I would hazard that every single one of those entitled to the support would exchange it instantly for a cure of what is a much-misunderstood illness. Moreover, the concept that a multiple-choice test (as it would seem to be) with very general categories could generate any sensible information on a condition that can not only change on a daily basis, but even within one day, illustrates a total lack of understanding on the part of the company that has been brought in to implement this strategy, an example of the private sector being allowed to benefit from the frailty of others.

Susan Randall


• The government says it is committed to a “fair and accurate” work capability assessment. The distress and injustice caused by this new system needs to be publicised far and wide.

My brother died last week of kidney cancer. He was diagnosed a year ago and at Christmas was told he had about four months to live. In the spring he was summoned for a work capability assessment (by this time he had two brain tumours) and found fit for work. In addition to everything else, he became anxious about losing the small amount of money he was living on. He was asked to go in to the jobcentre for an interview but was too ill at the time. On 19 May he received a letter from Jobcentre Plus telling him he was to be treated as having limited capability for work. The medical officer overseeing his case had advised that “death within six months is unlikely to occur due to the client’s cancer” and there would be no “substantial risk to his mental or physical health if he were found capable of work-related activity”.

He died six days later, having been unable to get out of bed for four weeks. What work were they suggesting he was capable of? He asked: “What have I paid national insurance for if not help to pay the bills and feed me at a time like this?”

Claire Debenham


The Guardian

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