Theresa May confronted with harsh reality of work assessments by woman on verge of tears

'I was asked in detail about suicide attempts and I came out crying because I was so upset', she says

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The Independent Online

Theresa May faced an impassioned speech about the realities of work capability assessments (WCA) during BBC Question Time Leader’s Debate.

A woman in the studio audience became visibly distressed as she explained difficulties associated with the process of the assessment in order to claim disability benefits.

She said: “The NHS is an absolute shambles for mental health at the moment. I applied for NHS counselling probably, about the end of 2015. My first appointment is next Tuesday.

“I’ve been waiting a year and a half for this and I have suffered so much over that year – in part because of the work capabilities assessment.

“Let me tell you, I’m partially sighted as well. I am partially sighted. I have mental health problems, and also I have other issues – a jaw issue – and I went into my assessment and I was asked in detail about suicide attempts and I came out crying because I was so upset because of the way I was treated by that nurse.”

Theresa May responded: "I’m not going to make any excuses for the experience you have had. Both of you have raised two difference issues.

“We do look at improving how that assessment is taking place.”

The Government’s fit-to-work tests for access to disability benefits are causing permanent damage to some claimants’ mental health, according to research conducted by academics at Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt and Napier universities.

In severe cases, “the WCA experience led to thoughts of suicide” according to 30 people who were interviewed about it.

Sources of anxiety included a fear of losing their income, the longevity of the tests and the lack of specialist mental health training amongst assessors.

The Labour party has proposed to scrap the Work Capability and Personal Independence Payment and replace them with a personalised and holistic process, providing each individual with an individual plan tailored to their needs.