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Work Capability Assessments: Claimant Health

Volume 670: debated on Monday 27 January 2020

4. What recent assessment she has made of the effect on claimant health of the work capability assessment process. (900396)

We recognise that attending a work capability assessment can be a stressful experience and have put measures in place to address that. Where possible, we will determine benefit entitlement based on written evidence alone.

Jodey Whiting took her own life in 2017 when her social security support stopped after she missed a work capability assessment that she did not know about. Last week, a psychiatrist said that Jodey’s mental state was likely to have been “substantially affected” by the DWP’s decision.

Last week, Errol Graham’s death was reported in the news. He died in 2018, of starvation. He weighed four and a half stone—again, under similar circumstances. Will the Secretary of State consider, as a matter of urgency, an independent inquiry into the deaths of claimants in these circumstances?

I thank the hon. Lady for that question; she has been a long-standing campaigner against Labour’s work capability assessment, introduced in 2008. We agree: that is why we commissioned five independent reviews and implemented more than 100 recommendations. Working with the Royal College of Psychiatrists, we are making sure that our frontline staff are fully trained to be in the best place to identify people at risk of suicide.

I thank the Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Will Quince), for his ministerial visit to Macmillan call centre, which is based in my constituency. During his visit, he discussed the idea of people from the jobcentre and others having a dedicated helpline to the call centre so that they could discuss cases urgently. Will the Minister and his team make that a priority?

Macmillan does fantastic work and engage, regularly with both me and the Minister with responsibility for welfare delivery. I am delighted that there was such a productive visit to the call centre, which is making a real difference to people in need of support.

I urge the Minister to look specifically at how those with acquired brain injuries are treated in the system. A woman constituent has come to me and said, “I know that I am meant to be using all my energy to try to heal my own brain, but I am having to use it all to go through the welfare system.” Is there nothing we can do to ensure that these people are treated more humanely in the system?

I absolutely agree with the hon. Gentleman, who, as I know from first-hand experience, has raised this issue repeatedly. We are working with stakeholders, charities and claimants on how we can continue to improve the system, particularly when it comes to gathering evidence, so that we can get support to the people most in need as swiftly as possible.