Press Release: MHRN Judicial Review into the DWP-Atos Work Capability Assessment

MHRNJan 9th, 2013

Press Release From the Mental Health Resistance Network.

Re: Judicial Review of the Work Capability Assessment

On 15 and 16 January 2013, the Upper Tribunal is due to hear a claim for judicial review brought by two disabled people supported by the Mental Health Resistance Network.

They are arguing that the Work Capability Assessment discriminates against people with impaired mental, cognitive and intellectual functions (called “people with mental health disabilities” for short), and that the DWP should make adjustments to the Work Capability Assessment process to minimise the disadvantages that people with mental health disabilities face in being assessed for ESA.

The reason that the ESA process discriminates against people with mental health disabilities is that the process requires ESA applicants to self-report how their ability to work is affected by their disability.

While this is challenging enough for many people with physical disabilities, it can be a distressing, and sometimes an impossible task for many people with mental health disabilities.

This is because some people with mental health disabilities do not always have insight into their condition, and others may find it difficult to articulate the effect of their disability on their fitness to work for reasons of shame or otherwise.

Furthermore, some mental health disabilities are complex, fluctuating, and often hidden, and these are by their very nature difficult for Atos Health Care Professionals (who are often not doctors and in general have no expertise in mental health) to properly assess at a short face-to-face assessment.

In addition, people with mental health disabilities are often particularly vulnerable to the stresses of the assessment process itself, and often cannot cope with marshalling medical evidence explaining their condition.

This means that they face substantial disadvantage as a result of the way in which ESA claims are processed.

What the claimants hope to achieve by bringing the case is to force the DWP to change their procedure for obtaining of medical evidence in ESA claims by people with mental health disabilities.

The DWP’s current approach is only to seek further medical evidence in very limited circumstances. However the claimants’ case is that such evidence should be requested by the DWP in each case where an ESA claimant’s disability relates to their mental rather than their physical health.

So the claimants will be asking the Upper Tribunal to order that the DWP always seek further medical evidence in the case of a person with a mental health disability, by approaching a nominated health care professional or by inviting an ESA claimant to nominate one; and that this must be done before the claimant is required to complete an ESA50 (limited work capability questionnaire) and face-to-face assessment.

The idea behind seeking further medical evidence at the beginning of the claim is so that it can be used to inform the DWP

(a) whether to require an ESA50 or a face-to-face assessment

(b) whether there is a risk of substantial harm to the claimant’s mental health, if they were found fit for work or work related activity;


(c) whether the claimant should be found eligible for ESA.

The Upper Tribunal’s decision is not expected to be given until after the case has ended.

The case is a compromise as far as many people are concerned – we would like to have brought a more fundamental challenge to the Work Capability Assessment, but this is all the lawyers thought we could realistically achieve – we have managed to get to a trial, even though the Government has tried to get the case thrown out and has fought it every step of the way.

Even if we don’t get everything we want from the case, we hope that it might make things a little better for some of our friends and relatives and neighbours who are presently suffering with this unfair and inhumane procedure.

Whatever the outcome of this judicial review, we will continue to campaign against what we all know to be a sham of an assessment.

A vigil will be held outside the Royal Courts of Justice near to the Upper Tribunal Courts on Wednesday 16th January at 12 noon by the Mental Health Resistance Network, supported by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and other mental health and disability campaigning organisations.

We have invited various political figures who have an interest in mental health issues and concerns for people who are living with mental health problems to speak at the vigil. People living with mental health problems will be asked to speak about their personal experiences of the WCA process.


Mental Health Resistance Network


14 thoughts on “Press Release: MHRN Judicial Review into the DWP-Atos Work Capability Assessment

  1. jed goodright says:

    Of course, any reasonable assessment would have accounted for this from the beginning – but then nazis don’t do reason

  2. Boadacia! says:

    ‘Reason’ to these people is alike ‘Compassion’ was to ‘Hermann Wilhelm Göring,’ – as we all already know. The similarities are disturbing.

  3. jax says:

    It is totally vital that all medical evidence should be assessed but i dont think that anyone should sit on any health related benefits for years without being medically assessed. The ATOS system is clearly not working but the previous system of people on health related benefits for years without any assessment also doesnt work. I have worked in mental health got almost 20 yrs and am also a service user. I am also a welfare rights worker. Many cannot work and need protection but many, I have worked with, have never tried to work because they are well of on benefits. I have frequently seen peoples lives deteriorate after receiving DLA, middle rate, passport to IS premiums. Its a good weekly income an without skills and experience you wouldn’t equal it working. Im not blaming but the system is failing. Perhaps we should be struggling for a halfway point. Both systems are failing to work.

  4. "Scrounger" says:

    I have skills, experience and a university education.
    I also have serious mental health issues and have been on benefits for 10 years.

    jax, you state that “I don’t think that anyone should sit on any health related benefits for years without being medically assessed.”
    In the 10 years I have been in recipe of benefits, my claim was re-assessed every couple of years, requiring me to provide MEDICAL EVIDENCE to back up my claim for incapacity benefits.

    No-one has ever sat “on any health related benefits for years without being medically assessed”, the difference being they (the DWP) used to accept the word of your GP or Psychiatrist as evidence. I.E The health professionals who knew your case best!

    Not some tick box system by a medical person who, in most cases, has NO training in Mental Health!

    In my situation, the medical “professional” hasn’t even met me! (I have agoraphobia amongst other issues and live in a small rural community. My ATOS testing centre is 40 miles away in the city centre)
    Yet, even with supporting evidence from my psychiatrist, the DWP received a report from ATOS stating that I could go back to work in 12 months! (I’m in the WRAG group for ESA)
    I got a copy of the report and the decision makers decision because I stated I wished to appeal.

    Unfortunately my health has deteriorated to the point I have withdrawn from every day life, after I had been making steady progress for the last few years.
    I am the worst I have been in the last 5 years and again I am finding it difficult to even go to the local shop for a pint of milk.
    I have no energy for an appeal and could not face the appearance at a tribunal.
    So I have had no choice but to let it go and just fervently hope that they will leave me alone until 12 months have passed.

  5. Tia Junior says:

    Talking in generalities is guaranteed to upset someone when it is not intended to, so bear this in mind when I broadly go along with jax. I have suffered three wrong WCAs and had all 3 overturned so I at least have some qualifications to comment.

    Many GPs have let their profession down over the years by taking the line of least resistance – unnecessary medication and too soft an approach to not working – you only had to ask and you got a sick note – no skin off the GP’s nose. So I think a more rigorous and effective assessment was needed, but I’d have done it by “re-educating” GP’s and making better use of the range of expertise that exists in many of the 10,000 surgeries around the UK.

    I have no problem with a regular reassessment up to the point where there is no chance whatsoever of an improvement in my condition and the frequency is set realistically, albeit slightly optimistically.

    Obviously the assessment methodology has to be right and better consider the difference between being able to undertake unconnected tasks at random intervals as opposed to holding down a job. Employers need reliability more than anything else, so it should be a JSA, not WCA. Even the illustrious Harrington failed to make this obvious distinction forcefully enough.

  6. "Scrounger" says:

    I apologise if my comment was more of a “knee-jerk” reaction than necessary.
    Unfortunate habit I seemed to have picked up trying to debate with folks leaving comments on articles on various news sites, who have NO understanding of how these changes are impacting disabled people. The folks who seem to be baying for the blood of the “scroungers, shirkers, skivers” the government assures them are rampant on benefits.

    I’ve not being doing so well since my last ATOS assessment. My health has seriously gone down hill and again I do apologise if I was too defensive in my comment. It’s getting hard not to be, what with the average “Joe Bloggs” convinced I could and should be in work and that I’m just “chosing” to be unable to support myself.

  7. jay says:

    No need to apologize, the sheep blinded by government propoganda will never admit they are wrong.
    You will always find that people who swallow the government and media enforced lies have never suffered from serious long term illness or disease.

    Ask them if they have ever taken days off work because they’ve felt unwell. Then ask them why they couldn’t just carry on and go to work soon shuts them up.

    A long time ago when I did history in school one of the eras we studied was the rise of the Nazis and the outbreak of WWII.
    At the time being a teenager I could never understand how Hitler and his party could take over the whole of Germany with his facist policies and propoganda. How could ordinary people be so suckered in to his beliefs.

    Older and wiser I now see how it is done, in my own country no less.

    I and many others have no objection to a fair MEDICAL assessment by an impartial consultant or doctor that has no biased agenda, ie. government targets.

    Lord Freud himself has declared the WCA is not a medical assessment one of the few truths he speaks.
    To attack the ill and disabled in this manner is morally bankrupt and it’s time to deflect the argument onto the real shirkers that caused the financial collapse, hello bankers, speculators, corrupt politicians.
    Tax dodging companies, the inept HMRC etc.

    1. Christopher says:

      Well said Jay..

      We all know there’s always going to be a handful of people who are out to get whatever they can for the least possible effort, in every single aspect of their lives. There always has been. And there are always going to be morons who believe any hype they are fed such as all benefit claimants are just workshy layabouts. I’m sure if you told them a pig was a dog often enough they’d believe that too..

      The truth is the majority of us are genuine, and no matter how many obstacles they put in our way or how many hoops they expect us to jump through it’s not going to suddenly make us better. In fact it’s more likely to make us worse..

    2. "Scrounger" says:

      This is why I thought I should apologise, I know most people who are commenting on here have a far better grasp of what is actually happening and the consequences to sick and disabled people in real terms. I feel I had taken Jax’s comment the wrong way and had a “knee-jerk” reaction.
      That was unfair of me, as I too am not opposed to PROPER medical assessment, which the WCA and Atos do not provide!

      I am still futilely furious about the report from Atos regarding my own circumstances. The evidence I sent from my psychiatrist stated he was still determining my diagnosis and that I had either illness 1 or illness 2 (with 2 being the milder form)
      The report from Atos stated, unequivocally, that I had illness 2, with scant mention of the other “issues” that I had stated on the ESA50 form.
      In my current state of ill health I am unfortunately in no position to challenge this report and have little choice but to let Atos get away with it. This makes me very angry, which in turn is making my health worse!

      1. Christopher says:

        Please please please don’t give up ”scrounger”..that’s just what the mo-fo’s want!!..Ask anyone, friend, neighbour, relative, anyone at all to help you get access to CAB or Welfare Rights etc to help you appeal this..

        1. "Scrounger" says:

          Wish I could. My agoraphobia has kicked off again and I haven’t seen daylight in 2 months.

          I live in a rural community and the nearest CAB office n stuff is about 40 miles away. I’ve withdrawn totally from any community involvement and although I am on congenial terms with my neighbours we’re not exactly on a personal level.
          There’s just me and the cat. He’s supportive tho (always a warm fuzzy shoulder to cry on) =) unfortunatly he’s crap with paperwork. 😉

          I’m just beginning to worry that after the 12 months in the WRAG they’ll automatically put me into “fit for work” without any further assessment. Does that happen? (I’m not on contribution based ESA)

  8. Serenity says:

    More mumbo jumbo from the government as they and their agents the press recite their incantations bewitching those whom are unable to think for themselves and are susceptible too suggestion.

  9. Tia Junior says:

    Citizen’s Advice Bureau has done some really good work in this area, has a good success rate and so has acquired a justified reputation dealing with appeals. It would certainly be my first port of call.

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