Equalities watchdog orders DWP to improve treatment of disabled people

DWP failing to meet the needs of benefit applicants with mental health conditions or learning disabilities.

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The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has ordered the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to improve its handling of claimants for disability benefits.

This is in response to major concerns over the department’s inability to meet the needs of benefit applicants with mental health conditions or learning disabilities.

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In February 2021, a cross-party group of MPs requested the EHRC to “undertake an examination into the deaths of vulnerable claimants by suicide and other causes between 2008 and 2020.”

As mandated by the 2010 Equality Act, the Commission reviewed whether the DWP made reasonable adjustments to its processes for people with mental health conditions and learning impairments.

Through 2021, the Commission interrogated DWP officials over allegations that the department was not performing its legal obligations to handicapped applicants.

The DWP listed the measures it would take to address the identified problems. In light of the severity of the issues, the Commission considered that more action is necessary.

Consequently, it is drafting a legally enforceable agreement with the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to bind them to establishing an action plan to meet the needs of benefit claimants with mental health problems and learning impairments.

This legally binding action plan focuses on resolving issues for DWP customers, offers a fast and efficient way of redress, and aids in avoiding lengthy investigations.

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Chief Executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Marcial Boo, said: “The EHRC is committed to stamping out discrimination against all disabled people, including those with mental health conditions and learning disabilities whose needs can be overlooked.

“Government bodies often deliver essential services to vulnerable people. They must meet high standards and make reasonable adjustments for those who need them. The EHRC will hold them to account if they do not.

“This agreement with DWP will build on the improvements already taking place for disabled benefits claimants.

“We are pleased that officials are working cooperatively with us to address our concerns, and we expect the binding legal agreement to be in place shortly. We will monitor its delivery.”

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