The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is calling on the Department for Work and Pensions to improve its treatment of disability benefit claimants.
This is in response to serious concerns about the inability to meet the needs of its clients with mental and learning disabilities.
Disability campaigners had raised concerns with the commission about the deaths of DWP clients in vulnerable situations, and a cross-party group of MPs asked the EHRC in February 2021 to “undertake an investigation into deaths of vulnerable claimants by suicide and other causes between 2008 and 2020.” The panel considered whether the DWP made reasonable adjustments to its processes for people with mental health and learning disabilities, as required the Equality Act 2010.
Until 2021, the commission questioned DWP officials over concerns that its legal obligations to customers with disabilities were not being met. The DWP described the actions taken to resolve the identified issues. However, the commission concluded that additional measures were necessary, given the seriousness of the problems.
EHRC is therefore developing a legally binding agreement with the DWP to engage them in an action plan to meet the needs of clients with mental health and learning disabilities. This legally binding action plan is focused on resolving DWP customer issues, providing a quick and effective avenue of redress, and avoiding lengthy investigations.
Director General of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Marcial Boo, said: “The EHRC is committed to eradicating discrimination against all people with disabilities, including those with mental and learning disabilities whose needs may be overlooked.
“Government agencies often provide essential services to vulnerable people. They must meet high standards and make reasonable adjustments for those who need them. The EHRC will hold them accountable if they fail to do so.
“This agreement with DWP will build on improvements already underway for disability claimants. We are pleased that officials are working with us to address our concerns, and we expect the binding legal agreement to be in place shortly. We will monitor its delivery.