- Created: Wednesday, 09 July 2014 10:33
- Written by London FRFI
On 8 July 2014, London RCG comrades joined a demonstration outside the Royal Courts of Justice against the hated Work Capability Assessments (WCA), which are used to humiliate, punish and sanction people claiming disability benefits. The protest was called by the Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN) and Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC).
A previous successful challenge to WCA brought by the MHRN forced the court to conclude that people with mental health problems are unfairly disadvantaged by the so-called 'medical' tests which fail to ensure claimants can submit further medical evidence to support their benefit claims and to accurately reflect how their condition affects their ability to work.
Six out of ten employment and support allowance (ESA) claimants hit with a sanction are vulnerable people with a mental health condition or learning difficulty, according to Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. The proportion has rocketed from 35% of sanctioned claimants in 2009 to 58% in 2013.
Sanctions are now overwhelmingly aimed at the most vulnerable individuals by a government department which relies on a policy of institutional discrimination to cut benefits costs. WCAs are used to assess people with a range of disabilities as 'fit for work' and to then punish them with sanctions if they are not seen as complying. Many claimants, especially those with mental health problems, experience high levels of distress caused by this iniquitous and heavy-handed process. There have been a significant number of suicides as a result,
The previous judgment ruled that the DWP should make 'reasonable adjustments' to the WCA process to make it fit for purpose as required by the Equalities Act 2010. The current judicial review, from 7-9 July, is about deciding what adjustments, if any, the DWP proposes to make.
The RCG joined members from grassroots campaign groups such as Mental Health Resistance Network, DPAC, Winvisible, Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group and Black Triangle. There were also some individuals there with red Unite flags, and Labour MP John McDonnell joined the protest for a time. However, there was no sign of the organised British left. Disability rights group are demonstrating some of the most militant, imaginative and principled resistance against a relentless system of cuts and sanctions, which penalise the most vulnerable in society (see for example DPAC's occupation of the grounds of Westminster Abbey www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-28074848). All socialists should be making common cause with that struggle.