Schedule 1

Part of Equality Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 11:00 am ar 16 Mehefin 2009.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Vera Baird Vera Baird Solicitor General, Attorney General's Office 11:00, 16 Mehefin 2009

Overall, the broad view is that the issue is one for the medical profession and its diagnosis of depression, rather than for anti-discrimination measures, which already provide for recurring conditions. I remind hon. Members that schedule 1 defines the effects of an impairment being long term, specifically saying in paragraph 2(2):

“If an impairment ceases to have a substantial adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities, it is to be treated as continuing to have that effect”— even if it does not— if that effect is likely to recur.”

If a doctor can say that a condition is likely to recur, if evidence from the past on how the individual has reacted suggests that it is likely to recur, or if the evidence suggests that it is likely to recur, the person will rightly be treated as having a fluctuating illness, which is capable of meeting the definition in paragraph 2. However, if we are talking about an awful personal event that puts someone into depression for a period, but they are not depressed in any other sense and do not have an underlying difficulty, and within five years some other awful event occurs—such things can, unfortunately, happen in that sequence—that quite separate element of perfectly sensible depression, as it were, which is a response to an event in a person’s life and would throw anyone into depression, ought not to make them disabled.

Most people in such a situation would not want to be classed as disabled. It would be extremely difficult to know what anyone else could do to help them through the interim period, when they have been perfectly healthy  because the impact of such an event has not been playing upon them. It is the reverse of what the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon said. We should not be looking for a way of defining every instance of depression to ensure that it is within the protection of disability provisions. If something is likely to recur, that person obviously has a long-term illness and must be protected. That is the way around the problem, as common sense, which he prays in aid, and medical evidence require it to be.