The fit-for-work test fails mentally ill people – not the other way roundPosted: July 12, 2013
I’ve seen myself how those with mental disorders are at a huge disadvantage in passing this test, which has to be changed
As a 76-year-old archdeacon and former vicar, I never imagined that in retirement I’d end up starting a fight with the government. But that’s exactly what happened this week, when I launched the I Agree With Dick petition, in conjunction with the charity Rethink Mental Illness. We’re demanding that the government stops using the work capability assessment to judge whether people with mental illness should receive benefits, until the test is improved.
This matters so much to me because I’ve been through the test with others, and have seen just how unfair it is. My son has bipolar disorder. Over the years he’s been in and out of hospital, and sectioned three times. He cannot live on his own, and when he’s tried to go back to work it’s only served to made his condition even worse. The benefits he receives help him get by from day-to-day.
But when he went for the government’s fit-for-work test, it felt like the odds were stacked against him against him from the start. We found that people like my son have to answer incredibly complex questionnaires about their physical health, but hardly get asked anything about mental illness. They are also expected to gather extensive medical evidence from their GP, psychiatrist and other health professionals, explaining why they are unfit to work.
Without this evidence, your benefits could be cut immediately. But if you’re hearing voices or going through a psychotic episode, gathering those kinds of documents is an almost impossible task. It means that people with mental illness are at a huge disadvantage and it’s simply not fair.
My son was lucky to have our help to fill in forms and gather medical documents. But despite all the evidence we presented on his behalf, he was found fit to work, meaning he had to start job-hunting or face losing his benefits. Thankfully we managed to appeal against that decision, but it was a long and stressful ordeal that took more than six months. I dread to think what would have happened to our son if we hadn’t been there.
There are thousands of other people going through the exact same thing right now who have no one to help them. I fear that they’ll end up in a terrible situation because they’re too unwell to fight their case.
And don’t have to just take my word that the benefits test is unfair. In May, judges came to the conclusion that the test puts people with severe mental illness at a substantial disadvantage, and that it should not continue in its current form. The government is now appealing that decision, but in the meantime it’s still using the test to assess about6,000 people with mental health problems each week.
That’s why I can’t just sit by and do nothing, we have to keep pushing until the test is fixed. The lives of some of the most vulnerable and unwell people in our society could depend on it.
If you agree with me, please sign my petition, and help us keep up the pressure. Now is the time to stand up.
#RT via http://www.guardian.co.uk