Poverty and Inequality

22.05.17

Punitive benefit cuts pushing mental health sufferers further into poverty

The benefits system is causing a large number of people suffering with mental health problems to be made even more unwell, a new survey has found.

In research conducted by charity Mind, around 3,000 people with mental health problems were asked about how being ‘sanctioned’ – having financial support cut or stopped altogether – made their conditions worse.

Of the respondents, 90% said that being sanctioned had effected their mental health, and 89% said that the threat of being sanctioned had also effected their mental health.

Three in five people who had been sanctioned added that it had made them less, rather than more, likely to get a job, and a further 23% said that being sanctioned had made no difference to how likely they were to find employment.

“These statistics provide further evidence to show how the benefits system is not just failing people with mental health problems, but actively working against them,” said Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind.

“We’ve long been calling for a stop to punitive measures such as sanctions, which only serve to push people with mental health problems even further into poverty and further from their hope of finding work.”

Farmer added that treating people with suspicion and stopping their financial support when they’re unable to do the things that are asked of them is cruel, ineffective and fails to do what it is supposed to and get people into work.

“We want to see more voluntary, tailored support which works with people to identify their unique skills, ambitions and barriers to getting and staying in work,” he said.

The Mind chief executive stated that in the run-up to the general election, the charity will “continue to ensure that the voices of those we represent are heard”.

“One of our key manifesto points is that the next government ensures anyone with a mental health problem who requires financial support from the welfare system can access that support to help manage the extra costs of having a mental health problem, in order to stay well and live independently, free from the fear of sanctions and having their benefits removed if they are too unwell to work,” he concluded.

Mind’s survey also follows Shelter findings that showed how problems with housing, including people struggling to pay rent or living in low-quality accommodation, were causing many to suffer mental health conditions.

And at the end of 2016, Mind found that local councils were still spending ‘negligible’ amounts on mental health care in the community.

Top Image: David Cheskin PA Wire

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