DWP has to tell disability assessors that it’s ‘not appropriate’ to ask to see self-harm scars

DWP logo

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has updated its guidance for disability assessors. It now tells them that it’s “not appropriate” to ask to see scars from self-harm.

The DWP published the Revised Work Capability Assessment handbook [pdf] in April 2018. At the front, it has a list of changes since the last edition. One of the changes reads [pdf, p5]:

Section 3.7 – Paragraph added to highlight it is not appropriate to request to see evidence of scars from previous self harm.

The revised paragraph states [pdf, p139]:

It should be noted that in circumstances where a claimant indicates a history of self harm the [health care professional] should not ask the claimant to demonstrate evidence of this, by asking them to reveal scars as this may distress the individual.

“Hugely worrying”

Mental health charity Mind tweeted:

Read on...

Claimants asked why they didn’t kill themselves

Everyone making a claim for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) – a benefit for those whose ability to work is limited by ill health or disability – has to undergo a work capability assessment (WCA).

Private company MAXIMUS has the contract to carry out these assessments for the DWP. In 2017, the company was accused of asking a disabled man why he had not killed himself. As The Canary reported, other people also came forward to say that assessors had asked them similar questions. MAXIMUS responded:

We are satisfied that the healthcare professional who conducted the assessment did so in line with our policies and guidelines.

In February 2018, the Work and Pensions Committee published a report into experiences of claimants undergoing medical assessment for ESA and personal independence payment (PIP). The report included evidence from claimants and family members, one of whom recalled this exchange:

The assessor also asked my mother if she were suicidal. As I recall, that went like this:

Assessor: “Are you suicidal?”

K: Yes

Assessor: How often are you suicidal?

K: Every day

Assessor: Have you tried?

K: Yes

Assessor: And why didn’t you succeed? Why did you fail?

K: My family would miss me.

Another said:

My daughter was violently triggered by the hugely intrusive and challenging questions the assessor asked and self-harmed during the assessment.

“Intrusive and inappropriate”

Ayaz Manji, senior policy and campaigns officer at Mind, said that the implication that assessors had been asking claimants to display evidence of self-harm was “shocking”. He went on to say:

We regularly hear from supporters who have been made to feel uncomfortable or even suicidal due to intrusive and inappropriate questions about self-harming and suicidal thoughts during assessments. There can be extremely serious ramifications to asking these types of questions during the assessment process.

Mind highlights serious concerns about assessors who “lacked even the most basic understanding of mental health”. It concludes that:

We need to see real reform so that people with mental health problems are assessed compassionately by staff who understand mental health, and asked questions that relate to the actual barriers they face in the workplace.

Featured image via Wikimedia commons

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed