Judicial Review into flawed benefits system assessment praised

A PARKINSON’S disease sufferer from Derby, who had faced having his benefits halved, has welcomed a review into the controversial system that judges eligibility for sickness and disability benefits.

The Work Capability Assessment will be the subject of a judicial review after two claimants applied to the courts earlier this year.

The claimants, with the support of the law charity Public Law Project, fought for the review on the grounds that it discriminated against people with mental health problems.

Lawyers for the claimants, who requested anonymity within the court system, told Mr Justice Edwards-Stuart at the High Court that people with mental health issues were not well served by the assessment.

But the review could have wider implications after the judge, when questioned whether the system was flawed for just those with mental health problems, described the test as “pretty crude” across the board.

Robin Mitchell, of Carlton Avenue, Shelton Lock, welcomed news of the review in the wake of his experiences.

Mr Mitchell, whose condition often leaves him unable to dress himself in the mornings, was told that he had been assessed by Atos Healthcare, which run the tests, as being fit to return to work.

He had the decision overturned on appeal.

The 61-year-old has had regular assessments of his condition since retirement to ensure he could not return to work but was told in 2010 by a registered nurse at Atos “that a return to work could be considered in 18 months”.

If the assessment had been accepted by Mr Mitchell, he would have seen his benefits halved, dropping by hundreds of pounds.

Margaret Beckett MP: Portrait by Andy Williams

Derby South MP Margaret Beckett took up his case after speaking to Mr Mitchell’s former boss, who had been shocked at his treatment.

She wrote to the Work and Pensions Minister, Iain Duncan-Smith, telling the former Conservative Party leader that she remained “extremely anxious about the way the system works”.

Mr Mitchell, of Carlton Avenue, Shelton Lock, said: “I am happy that there is to be a judicial review and I support the people who have made it.

“There really needs to be a distinction between those people who have life-long illnesses and will never be fit to work and those who have had accidents or illnesses which are recoverable.

“There does need to be a review system for benefits but equally the distinction between groups needs to be addressed.”

Figures obtained by the Derby Telegraph showed that more than half of sick claimants in Derbyshire who took their benefit appeal to tribunal were successful.

Between October 2010 and July 2011, 734 people had the decision to deny them Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) overturned.

This is Derbyshire

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