A passionate and determined demonstration was held outside the Royal Courts of Justice yesterday despite the blistering cold. Inside the Court members of the Mental Health Resistance Network were arguing that benefit assessments discriminate against those with mental health conditions.
The Work Capability Assessments are used to judge eligibility for sickness and disability benefits. Private company Atos are employed to carry out quick computer based tests, which frequently ignore the opinions of doctors and medical specialists. The process has seen hundreds of thousands of genuinely sick and disabled people judged ‘fit for work’.
So frequently do Atos get it wrong that the appeals system is now in meltdown, with 40% of decisions over-turned at tribunal.
Yesterday’s protest saw several moving speeches in which people spoke of their own experience at the hands of Atos, as well as the ever growing number of tragic deaths linked to the process.
The Judicial Review into the assessments will examine whether the process is fair to people with mental health conditions. Campaigners will argue that many people will underplay mental health conditions at assessments due to fears of being sectioned, whilst others may not have an insight into their condition which allows a fair examination. Assessors often have no training in mental health conditions, yet are still able to find someone ‘fit for work’ based on a quick assessment.
A judgement is expected tomorrow. Those inside the Court reported that they felt things could go either way. The DWP are likely to appeal should they lose, dragging the case out for even longer whilst sick and disabled people die.
Members of Disabled People Against Cuts, Winvisible, Mad Pride and the PCS Union all spoke at the demo. One message was clearer than all the rest. Benefit claimants, disabled people and supporters will fight this Government’s vicious policies in the Courts, on the internet and crucially on the streets.
It has just been announced that the assessments are to become even tougher. Visit the following link for more information and spread the word using the hashtag #esasos
Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid