Work Capability Assessment is not suitable for people with mental health disorders
Dr Tyna Taskila
06 September 2012
Rethink’s recent survey reveals GP’s perceptions of how the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) impacts on their patients. The results are saddening to read.
According to the survey, many patients have suicidal thoughts as a result of being assessed for the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). This is hardly surprising. Anyone would be stressed if their future was in hands of a professional, with little knowledge of their personal history or illness, who had to decide in 30 minutes if the person in front of them was fit for work.
Assessors carrying out WCA are usually not familiar with their clients’ medical history. They often lack basic knowledge of the impact severe mental health illness has on an individuals work ability. The following quote has been taken from our research project into employment and schizophrenia. Unfortunately this person's experience is not uncommon,
" I find it really patronising how the nurse who hasn’t seen my history for 20 years, can look at you and say you’re ready to go back to work. I think that’s just so unfair. Don’t get me wrong, I would rather be at work but if you’re not ready to work, you’re not ready to work. Someone assessing you for 20 minutes, questions to do with physical ability, - that really annoys me. They were asking me more whether I could move a limb rather than asking anything about my mental health."
WCA is not only a random process, it’s also based on assessment tools that lack scientific evidence. Despite all the efforts made in work disability research, there is currently no scientifically proven assessment tool of work capacity for people with mental health disorders. WCA is merely developed to assess one’s physical capacity to work. This may be suitable for people with musculoskeletal conditions, but does not accurate measure capacity to work for individuals with severe mental health disorders.
Paul Jenkins, Chief Executive of Rethink Mental Illness is right saying that the WCA puts vulnerable people in society in an unbearable position. The Work Capability Assessment, in it’s current form, is an unethical, random process that does not take into account the special requirements work ability assessments must have for individuals with mental health disorders. It is vital that we develop these frameworks, so we can better support with people with mental health disorders.