FEARS have been raised that people suffering from disabilities and mental health problems in Flintshire could be forced back to work.

With the Government’s benefit reforms coming into effect, health experts fear some people unable to work could be forced back into employment or have their benefits cut.

In Flintshire 5,300 residents are on incapacity benefit or severe disablement benefit.

Sue Wood, service director at Flintshire Mental Health Advocacy Service (FMHAS), said mental health problems can be complicated and difficult to detect.

She said: “The feeling is some people who are unable to go back to work will be forced to. It could have a devastating effect on their health. It can make them unwell.

“People are asking for support and help with tribunals and benefit medicals. They are very anxious and needing support not just from us but from Flintshire Welfare Rights and Citizens Advice Bureau.

“People are worried about this. The fear is often creating anxieties. There is help out there but we have little resources. We are not a huge organisation. If we are flooded with requests we will not be able to meet them all.”

The proposals under the Welfare Reform Bill include changes to the disability living allowance while those refusing work could face a maximum three-year loss of benefits.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “We shouldn’t automatically write off a person’s ability to work, solely on the basis of a health condition or disability.

“That’s why the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) doesn’t focus on a particular diagnosis, but on the actual abilities of an individual, and whether that person - with the right support - could undertake suitable work.

“It’s in everyone’s interest that we get the WCA right and that it’s seen as a positive first step towards work.

“We have appointed Professor Harrington to conduct a second independent review, which will look closer at fluctuating health conditions.

“Organisations representing groups of people with such conditions will be consulted about possible improvements to the assessment.”

You can contact FHMAS for free advice on 01352 759332 or Flintshire Welfare rights on 01352 703561.