Under Schedule 19 Minister of the Crown are listed for the purposes of the Equality Act meaning they are subject to its provisions.
Discrimination arising from disability
(1)A person (A) discriminates against a disabled person (B) if—
(a)A treats B unfavourably because of something arising in consequence of B’s disability, and
(b)A cannot show that the treatment is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
(1)A person (A) harasses another (B) if—
(a)A engages in unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, and
(b)the conduct has the purpose or effect of—
(i)violating B’s dignity, or
(ii)creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for B.
98.This section defines what is meant by harassment for the purposes of the Act. There are three types of harassment. The first type, which applies to all the protected characteristics apart from pregnancy and maternity, and marriage and civil partnership, involves unwanted conduct which is related to a relevant characteristic and has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the complainant or of violating the complainant’s dignity. The second type is sexual harassment which is unwanted conduct of a sexual nature where this has the same purpose or effect as the first type of harassment. The third type is treating someone less favourably because he or she has either submitted to or rejected sexual harassment, or harassment related to sex or gender reassignment.
section 29 makes it unlawful to harass someone when providing a service.
Section 29: Provision of services, etc.Effect107.This section makes it unlawful to discriminate against or harass a person because of a protected characteristic, or victimise someone when providing services (which includes goods and facilities). The person is protected both when requesting a service and during the course of being provided with a service
There is currently no limit to the number of time a disabled person may be required for assessment, nor is there any minimum set period between assessments.
Assessments have such a high error rate that for many they are little better than tossing a coin and the consequence of a negative assessment can lead to many months of penury.
Under the Welfare Reform Act disabled people who are suffering degenerative disabling conditions are not exempt from the assessments.
The consequences of this are a breach of section 15 – reassessing people with degenerative disabling conditions for which there is no known recovery is disproportionate to the aim of moving those who can work into work. It is extremely unlikely that someone judged not fit for work is going to become fit for work as their condition worsens.
The Act also breaches Section 26 and 29 covering harassment as it is seen by many disabled people as being :
intimidating – irrespective of anything DWP say it is known that the purpose of assessing and reassessing is to save money first and treat the disabled person on their needs second.
hostile – the briefings and press releases along with the repeated use of misleading statistics has been instrumental in creating an atmosphere in which Disability hate crimes are being reported at record levels.
Given that many people are being assessed on multiple occasions,
given that there is no limit to the number of times may be assessed
given that there is no minimum time between assessments
given the high proportion of errors
given the length of time it takes to rectify errors
given the severe difficulties that may arise due to a wrong assessment
given the failure to tailor the requirement to attend assessments to the needs of the disabled person
The Secretary of State is in Breach because:
Many disabled people are afraid to use their benefits payments in the manner intended, especially if they require a large item or are asked to sign a long term contract because they are worried that a brown envelope can arrive at any time and that they could be within weeks of penury.
They are thus constantly suffering anxiety and fear due to the permanent state of uncertainty arising from the Welfare Reform Act.
I would argue that given the above it is incumbent upon the Secretary of State to:
1/ Set out a schedule for reassessments
2/ Require that DWP provide all claimants with a minimum time between reassessments
3/ As, a matter of urgency, either drop the WCA or develop one that’s fit for purpose
4/ Develop a method of especially protecting those on passported benefits who are appealing a decision from seeing a huge drop in income overnight
5/ Either exempt or set a long period in between reassessments of those with degenerative conditions. If DWP is really interested in help an annual letter asking for confirmation that the claimant does / does not with to apply for a higher rate award should be sufficient along with a corroborating statement from the claimants registered GP
6/ The claimant should have the right to see any reasoning behind requiring multiple reassessments within a short period of time.