Benefits change may force disabled and mentally ill people to seek work

People with mental health problems, disabled people and the sick
could lose their right to incapacity benefit and be forced into
work under government plans announced last week, say

The plans centre on the personal capability assessment (PCA), which
shows whether a person is incapable of work for the purpose of

The government wants to scrap a clause in the law which states that
a person who fails the PCA would be seen as unable to work if there
was “a substantial risk” to their mental or physical health if they
did so.

Martin Inch, a rights officer at the Disability Alliance, called
the government’s proposals “sneaky”. He said that some people, such
as those with mental health problems, could fail a PCA but still be
unable to work because a secondary factor, such as stress, triggers
their condition.

The government expects that the number of people who lose benefit
as a result of the proposed change “will be small”. But Alison
Cobb, policy officer for mental health charity Mind, said that was
not an argument for its removal.

“If it is a small number that is equally a reason for maintaining
the protection,” she said.

She added that the clause was needed to protect people because of a
lack of confidence in the PCA.

Mind believes doctors require more training and there needs to be
greater involvement of mental health service users.

“If after the PCA there are still going to be people whose health
will be damaged by them being seen as capable for work, there needs
to be a safety net to identify them,” she said.

It is the second time the government has attempted to do away with
the clause. It was initially removed from legislation in 1997, a
move ruled unlawful last November after a person who had previously
been entitled to incapacity benefit took the government to

Meanwhile, a draft of Europe’s first comprehensive disability
rights law was launched last week by Richard Howitt, president of
the European parliament’s disability rights group of MEPs.

The new law would extend the UK’s Disability Discrimination Act to
make discrimination illegal in social security and to ensure
manufactured goods are designed to be used by disabled

The amendment is open to consultation until 7 April. 

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