The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has gone back on its promise to investigate the role of the DWP in the deaths of vulnerable claimants, effectively letting the DWP entirely off the hook. Instead it is now only asking the DWP to come up with some new policies in relation to claimants with mental health issues and learning difficulties.
As far back as 2019 the EHRC said that it would mount an investigation into claimant deaths. But it then used the pandemic as an excuse not to begin work.
Now, however, the Commission has said only that it intends to enter into a Section 23 agreement under the Equality Act 2006 which will oblige the DWP “to commit them to an action plan to meet the needs of customers with mental health impairments and learning disabilities.”
The EHRC claim that:
“This legally-binding action plan is focused on resolving issues for DWP customers, and offers a fast, effective means of redress, and helps to avoid lengthy investigations.”
In a statement unlikely to inspire confidence in disabled claimants, 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.”
Sadly, the EHRC does not give any details of the “improvements already taking place for disabled benefits claimants”. Most claimants would probably argue that, unless you live in Scotland, they are completely non-existent.
The reality is that the DWP is vastly bigger and better funded than the EHRC. It will run rings round the Commission in the drawing up of an agreement which is likely to be little more than a list non-measurable and non-actionable good intentions.
The details of the action plan will not be available until the summer of 2022, at the earliest.
You can read more on the EHRC website.