4 December 2013
What: On the same day that the Court of Appeal ruling is handed down, DWP tells civil servants that it is “business as usual”. The so-called “gatekeeper memo” is issued to relevant staff and senior civil servants across DWP and tells them to continue their existing practices, although without clarifying what these are. The memo, leaked to the website Benefits and Work, says: “Individuals will apply for ESA and undergo the WCA in the normal way. Those currently on Incapacity Benefit will be reassessed as planned.”
Why significant: Ravi Low-Beer, from the Public Law Project, the solicitor for the two mental health service-users who took the case, says the DWP position is “completely wrong”, and adds: “They have challenged the finding that the process discriminates against people with mental health conditions and they lost. Where a court has made that finding, they cannot just do nothing. They have to consider making reasonable adjustments.” He and his colleagues have argued in court that where ESA applicants have a mental health condition, DWP should obtain medical evidence from their doctor or psychiatric team at every stage of the process, or justify why they had not done so. This links to many of the deaths of claimants, such as those of Stephen Carré, Michael O’Sullivan, David Barr and Mark Wood. DWP’s gatekeeper memo makes it clear that it continues to refuse to make these changes.