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Tuesday 24 February 2015
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RAS Universal Credit Training Days
Great feedback from all those attending the recent training days in Arbroath and Glasgow (pictured below). Copies of all the presentations and materials are now available from the RAS Co-ordinator. Contact Graham by email here if you want the pack sent out to you.

There'll be more training opportunities to come so watch out for the alerts.

Health Directors warn that ESA changes discriminate against women

The Directors of Public Health in Scotland warn that a new scoring system to decide if claimants with mental health issues can get ESA because of a risk of harm to themselves or someone else will discriminate against women.

The DWP have advised that four criteria should be taken into account when assessing 'substantial risk for claimants with a mental function problem, particularly in relation to self-harm and suicide risk''. 

The criteria state that men and women should be assessed differently -

  • one indicative “substantial risk” criterion and one high risk diagnosis and either: male and one personal factor or: female and two personal factors

  • or one high risk diagnosis and either: male, personal factor A and one other personal factor or: female, personal factor A and two other personal factors

The new guidance is proposing a very basic screening tool that seeks to predict who is at highest risk of suicide or other problems. However, this is highly problematic and not nearly sensitive enough. It is much more likely to discriminate against women.  Due to a number of complex and interacting factors there is a higher incidence of self-harm amongst females than males, whilst the incidence of suicide is higher in males.  

There are two major concerns about this updated guidance; first of all it discriminates against women with mental health conditions and at risk of suicide and/or self-harm. Secondly it puts further pressure on GPs and health professionals when they are providing evidence to support patients claiming ESA as they will need to include additional information about their female patients. 

The Directors of Public Health (DPH) in Scotland are calling for these new criteria to be reviewed to prevent the risk of women with mental health problems being unable to claim this benefit and the resulting risk of poverty for them and their families.

Dr Linda de Caestecker, DPH in Greater Glasgow and Clyde said “These changes are very concerning and will discriminate against women and people with mental health problems.”

 Dr Alison McCallum, DPH in NHS Lothian and chair of DPH in Scotland added “These changes place an added burden on women and people with mental health problems to prove their exceptional level of need. This is unfair, bureaucratic and unhelpful to people who should expect our support. Our experience to date indicates that that harm is likely to result from these changes”.

An Edinburgh GP commented, “The welfare benefit changes have been damaging to the health and wellbeing of a significant number of very vulnerable individuals. This has increased the workload of GP’s trying to improve our patient’s health. This change to the criteria is a further blow to disadvantaged individuals, especially women, with mental health problems as it will potentially increase mental distress, self harm and even suicide; as well as  increasing pressure on GP’s trying to support our most  vulnerable patients.”
Upper Tribunal News

Good to hear from Peter Jamieson in West Lothian about a favourable UT decision on PIP.

Peter says: "The case came about because the Tribunal failed to consider the “50% rule” in relation to the appellant’s ability to mobilise (Reg 7 of the PIP Regulations 2013). Leave to Appeal was granted by Upper Tribunal and Judge Gamble allowed the appeal."

A copy of the decision can be
found here or by contacting the RAS Co-ordinator here.
Survey Results

Taken longer than it should have but the results of the survey are attached below.
Perhaps the most promising outcome was that most members believe there is real potential for RAS to deliver in the areas of training, campaigns and policy development.
It was good to see that several volunteers have come forward and they should now have been contacted by the appropriate Sub Committee.
We are still short on volunteers to help improve our web and IT capabilities. You don't need to be an IT-savvy geek - you just need enthusiasm and basic organisational and planning abilities. If you want to know more contact the
 RAS Co-ordinator here.
Members meeting
The next meeting of members is on 24 April. As yet we are still on the hunt for a venue. Will confirm place, time and agenda shortly.
RAS Board
Tomorrow's Board meeting should produce some news on RAS' plans for the year. Expect a Brassic update later this week.