Tuesday, 24 January 2012
SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Eilidh Whiteford MP has seized on a report published today (Tuesday) by the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) which warns that the UK Government’s Work Capability Assessment for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) is not able to properly assess mental health.
The report comes as Tory Scotland Office Minister David Mundell, speaking on BBC Good Morning Scotland, was unable to say how many people in Scotland would be affected by UK Government welfare reforms. Mr Mundell was asked repeatedly how many people would be affected by plans for a benefits cap.
Commenting, Dr Whiteford said:
“The UK Government must respond to the research from the Scottish Association for Mental Health that the assessment for ESA is flawed and failing to properly assess mental health.
“These findings echo the concerns raised in the independent review by Professor Malcolm Harrington which found that the assessment process was impersonal, mechanistic and lacks empathy.
“There are already huge questions over the assessment process with people undergoing chemotherapy, in some cases terminally ill people, being ordered to attend back-to-work interviews.
“As these concerns persist it is frankly shocking that the Scotland Office is apparently unaware how many people in Scotland will be affected by his party’s welfare reforms.
“There is a need to reform the benefit system, but genuinely vulnerable individuals must not become an easy target for Conservative and Liberal cuts.
“Return-to-work initiatives can benefit both the economy and the individual, but people should only return to the workplace when they are genuinely able and when correct support measures are available.
“Existing safeguards are not working and, with major reforms in the pipeline, we need real guarantees to ensure that that people living with genuine incapacity and ill health are spared added stress and uncertainty.
“This issue shows yet again the different stance Scotland would take if we had the power to legislate on this issue and it is our clear view that it is the Scottish Parliament, not the UK Parliament, that should decide on welfare policy for Scotland – as would be the case if Scotland was independent.”