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By Debbie le Quesne

Fitness to work assessment not fair on some candidates, rules court

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I am aware that some of our West Midlands Care Association members run sheltered housing schemes for those suffering from an array of mental health problems and learning disabilities.

Some of those residents will undoubtedly been faced with a fitness-for-work assessment. I confess to having little specialist knowledge in this difficult field of work but on the grapevine I have head some assessment outcomes that have left me speechless.

Many have been deprived of benefits because of this assessment and a number of high-profile charities have taken up their cases.

A colleague pointed me to a Guardian piece last Thursday, but have only just found time to catch up.

 “The test used to determine whether hundreds of thousands of disabled people are eligible to claim sickness benefits puts people with learning difficulties, mental health problems and autism at a disadvantage, the court of appeal has found, upholding an earlier ruling that had been challenged by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP),” the newspaper reports.

Three charities – Rethink Mental Illness, Mind and the National Autistic Society – all welcome the ruling.

Reported in the Guardian, a statement from the three organisations, said: “The judges in the original ruling independently confirmed what our members and supporters have been saying for years – the system is unfair for some of the most vulnerable people in our society and is failing the very people it is meant to be supporting.

“It’s fantastic that the court of appeal has upheld this judgment … It would be irresponsible for the DWP to carry on using these flawed assessments as they are. They must halt the mass reassessment of people receiving incapacity benefit immediately, until the process is fixed.”

The DWP, however, seem determined to push a hard line stating that the court’s decision would not trigger a pause in assessments. It added that the judgment would have not effect on day-today business. I bet some bright lawyers somewhere disagree. Watch this space.

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