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EHRC imposes legally binding action plan on the DWP to improve its treatment of disabled benefit claimants

25 April 2022

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is requiring the DWP to improve its treatment of Disabled benefit claimants in response to serious concerns about its treatment of people with mental health impairments and learning disabilities.

Disability rights campaigners have long raised concerns with the Commission about the deaths of DWP customers in vulnerable situations, and an all-party group of MPs asked the EHRC in February 2021 to "undertake an investigation into the deaths of vulnerable claimants by suicide and other causes between 2008 and 2020".

The Commission examined whether the DWP was making reasonable adjustments to its processes for people with mental health conditions and learning difficulties, as required under the Equality Act 2010.

Through 2021, the EHRC questioned DWP officials about the concerns that its legal obligations to Disabled customers were not being met. The DWP outlined the steps being taken to address the problems identified.

However, the Commission has concluded that further action is necessary, given the seriousness of the issues. It is therefore drawing up a legally-binding agreement with the DWP to commit them to an action plan to meet the needs of customers with mental health impairments and learning disabilities.

This legally-binding action plan is aimed at resolving issues for DWP claimants, and "offers a fast, effective means of redress, and helps to avoid lengthy investigations".

Chief Executive of the EHRC 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.”

Ken Butler DR UK’s Welfare Rights and Policy Officer said: "It’s welcome that the EHRC is now taking action on this issue as are any positive DWP reforms that result. However, what’s still needed is a full public inquiry to fully learn from the DWP’s past failures and a new, independent process to investigate future cases of death and serious harm."

The Disability News Service recently published a 10,000-word investigation describing how evidence stretching back more than a decade showed how the DWP repeatedly ignored recommendations to improve the safety of its disability benefits assessment system, leading to countless avoidable deaths of disabled claimants.

In addition, how the DWP ensured that key evidence linking its actions with those deaths was not considered by independent reviews.”

For more information, see EHRC taking action to improve the treatment of disabled benefit claimants from equalityhumanrights.com

See also our related news story DWP failing to make reasonable adjustments for UC claimants with mental health problems.