‘Counterproductive’: Mental health charity Mind calls for ‘fundamental’ government rethink on benefit cuts

The Government has ‘failed its duty of care’ to people with mental health problems, according to a senior figure in Mind charity.

The comments come after Conservative MP Priti Patel was last week condemned for claiming that there is no evidence to suggest that more people with mental health issues received cuts to their benefits than others.

She made these claims despite a recent Freedom of Information request made by mental health charity Mind revealing that there were almost 20,000 benefit sanctions received by people who were unemployed due to mental illness between April 2014 and March 2015 .

Also, during the same period, only 6,340 people suffering with mental health problems were helped back into employment.

And Tom Pollard, Mind policy and campaigns manager, told MM that the charity wants the Government to ‘overhaul’ the way it deals with people with mental disabilities.

“Figures obtained by Mind show that people with mental health problems are more likely to have their benefits stopped than those with other health conditions,” he said.

“As well as fundamentally rethinking sanctions, we want the Government to overhaul the support it provides to help people with mental health problems.

“In continually refusing to listen to calls for a review of the use of sanctions, the Government is not only undermining its ambition of helping a million more disabled people into work.

“But is also failing its duty of care for the health and wellbeing of hundreds of thousands of people with mental health problems.”

Mr Pollard said that only 9% of people with mental health conditions are being helped back into work under the current scheme.

In fact, according to a Mind survey, as many as 83% feel the system has made their health conditions worse.

Despite such calls for change however Ms Patel was firm in her stance.

The Minister of State for the Department of Work and Pensions said that it is restrictive to look only at one’s mental state when analysing the effect of sanctions, and therefore it is not an accurate portrayal of the system.

She said: “There are many factors affecting an individual’s mental health. To assess the effect of sanctions in isolation of all other factors would be misleading.”

Mind has responded to this however, with Mr Pollard saying that there is in fact no evidence that cutting or threatening to cut benefits is in any way effective for those with mental health conditions.

Mr Pollard said: “It is actually counterproductive.

“The threat of losing their benefit causes a huge deal of additional anxiety, often making people more unwell and less able to work.”

Debbie Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, expressed her disappointment in Ms Patel’s comments, and in the Government’s approach to dealing with these issues in general.

“The minister may have inadvertently slipped up there,” she said.

“There is clear evidence from last year that 58% of people with mental health conditions on the employment and support allowance work-related activity group were sanctioned.

“The Government’s own evaluation of their work programme has shown not only how ineffective it is, with 8% of people with mental health conditions getting into sustained work, but that their punitive sanctions regime just does not work.

“So why will the Government not commit to undertaking an independent review of sanctions?”

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