Charity chief quits government welfare panel over incapacity tests | | 2 April 2012

April 2, 2012

From, 2 April 2012

The head of a mental health charity has left a government panel implementing changes to the welfare system, describing them as “deeply flawed”.

Chief executive of Mind Paul Farmer says he quit because ministers refused to listen to his criticism of the current fitness-to-work test.

But the employment minister said Mr Farmer was asked to leave after Mind began legal action over the tests.

They determine if people are eligible for Employment Support Allowance (ESA).

ESA became the new benefit on 31 March 2011 for all new claimants who are unable to work due to incapacity or illness.

The government is currently reassessing all those seeking to claim it, and says that of the first 141,000 reviewed, 37% are fit to work.

Unions, however, say the test is designed purely to move people off benefits, “whatever the cost”.


Mr Farmer told the BBC the 37% figure was “likely to be overstated” and he had resigned because his concerns, as part of the four-person advisory panel, were not being “appropriately listened to”.

“The test itself is not fit for purpose. It's extremely crude,” he said.

Some 50% of people deemed fit to work have appealed the decision and 50% of those have been successful, Mr Farmer said.

“So this is costing huge amounts of money to the country, but more importantly it's causing huge amounts of distress to people with mental health problems.”

Mr Farmer said if the process was “more supportive and less terrifying for people” then his charity “would recognise that a lot of people with mental health problems do want to work”.

“But we would much prefer that, especially given the current economic situation where there are not many jobs available for people, particularly those people with disabilities, that this process was slowed down, got right, so that people felt it was fair.”

He added: “The Work Capability Assessment really is letting people down… so it's not right for me to be seen to be associated with it.”

Employment minister Chris Grayling told the BBC he was informed last week “very much out of the blue” – and to his “surprise and disappointment” – that Mind had begun legal proceedings against his department to try to stop the testing process.

If the legal challenge was successful, he said, it would “bring to a grinding halt” reassessments of existing claims and assessment of new claims. He said this would mean the government would have to give new claimants access to benefits “without conditions”.

“Now Mind are, of course, entirely entitled to be involved in taking legal action against us,” he said. “But it's difficult to see how somebody can be chief executive of an organisation that's doing that and – at the same time – be advising our independent review on this whole process.”

8 thoughts on “Charity chief quits government welfare panel over incapacity tests | | 2 April 2012”

  1. I think it’s high time the people of this country boot this unelected government out of office and we have another general election.

    I also believe it’s about time the ME charities grow some b***s and do the same as this charity (or join forces with them). All ME charities should get together and take legal action against the government, DWP, ATOS, NHS and the psychologists for the ignorance, mistreatment and harm they have colluded in.

    The ME charities also need to retake the stance that ME is ME and is NOT CFS as most now seem to be happy to use the term CFS despite the harm it has done.

    If all ME patients around the country donated just £5-£10 each (or their families and friends and yes I do realise it is not quite so simple as that) and half went towards a legal case and the other half toward biomedical research then I would expect we would see big changes in the current disgusting situation. Just think approximately 300,000 people x £10!!!!

  2. Also meant to say, just wait until they bring in Universal Credit and Personal Independance Payment to replace DLA next year.

    I believe things are going to get a whole lot worse but just remember folks “We’re all in this together”.

  3. The reforms sponsored by the Coalition were first described by the Chancellor (not the Secretary of State for Work & Pensions), who said he wanted to reduce the welfare budget by 20%. Since a large proportion of that budget is spent on the state pension (hard to cut back significantly), clearly other parts were going to have to be cut by more than 20%.

    So IB was already being morphed into ESA, and conditions were toughened up so that 25% (at least) of those who were getting it would be excluded.

    We may manage to demonstrate that the test is being applied unfairly, capriciously and inefficiently – it’s not difficult, particularly in the case of those of us with ME. There are those with other conditions who are also being unreasonably denied. Try reading

    Suppose we manage to show that, within the current rules, you cannot exclude 25% of current IB claimants from ESA. Or ditto with those who will apply to move from DLA to PIP.

    The point of the legislative changes is to save money. If they do not save money, then further changes will have to follow, until more people are disallowed, and the right amount of money is saved.

    Those with ME, like those with certain mental health issues, are easy to misrepresent to the Daily Mail, and potentially quite expensive. Expect us to be first in line for further descriptive changes, and benefit exclusion.

    1. The remainder of the statement (sorry for the double post copy and paste malfunction):

      Paul came to his own conclusion that he no longer wanted to be part of the review. He resigned via a letter to Chris Grayling which clearly set out his reasons for doing so.

  4. Another very interesting report:

    UK is breaching human rights of disabled, UN told

    A SCOTTISH campaigner will this morning tell the Human Rights Council of the UN that the UK Government is in breach of its human rights obligations to disabled people.

    In Geneva today, Dr Pauline Nolan, Policy Officer for Inclusion Scotland, will submit evidence to a preliminary hearing ahead of a planned review of the human rights record of 14 states, including the UK.

    On behalf of the Campaign for A Fair Society – a coalition of more than 70 Scottish charities – Dr Nolan will warn the cumulative impact of welfare reform and cuts to benefits affecting disabled people will mean their ability to live a full life is impaired. In particular, she will argue that welfare changes undermine their right to be included in the community.

    The campaign also claims disabled people are being denied access to justice when they try to appeal against these cuts to their benefits.

    Dr Nolan said she aimed to equip the UN with a series of recommendations and questions to put to the UK Government when its representatives appear in front of the Human Rights Council in May.

    She added: “Disability organisations, disabled people and the Parliament’s own Joint Committee on Human Rights concluded that these cuts will have a devastating cumulative impact on the livelihoods of disabled people.

    “Further cuts are taking place to local authority services they receive. Taken together, all these cuts are severely undermining the human rights of disabled people.”

    She claims half of the £18 billion of cuts to be made under welfare reform will fall on households containing disabled people, adding: “These cuts will push hundreds of thousands of disabled people and their families into poverty and thousands will be made homeless.”

    Jim Elder-Woodward, of the Independent Living in Scotland project, said: “I am really pleased that Dr Nolan is going to Geneva to tell the UN just how this Coalition Government is systematically undermining the rights of disabled people by cutting their benefits and services.

    “The combined voices of disabled people have either been silenced or misrepresented by the UK Government in their resolution to make disabled people suffer over 50% of the total £18bn in benefit cuts.”

    Norma Curran, of Values Into Action Scotland, added: “These welfare reforms are devastating people’s lives. It’s not acceptable to challenge the human rights of people on the grounds of race, sex, language, or religion, so why does the UK Government think that it is acceptable to breach the human rights of disabled people?”

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