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Successive Governments have tried to shake-up the welfare system in an attempt to bring down the benefits bill. Labour introduced the employment support allowance (ESA) and the associated work capability assessment (WCA) and the Coalition is now going a step further proposing profound changes that will alter the entire landscape of welfare provision

As the Welfare Reform Bill makes its way through Parliament, what does this really mean for the lives of people with mental health problems that rely on welfare support to get by?

Mind has been hearing from a huge number of supporters who are extremely worried about the looming changes, particularly the abolition of the disability living allowance (DLA) and its replacement - personal independent payments (PIP).

400,000 people of working age claim DLA for mental health problems, and the suggested PIP thresholds released last week are causing us real concern. We consulted almost 200 people with mental health problems who receive DLA and found that many would struggle to access PIP, particularly the mobility component. Currently 85% of people who claim DLA for mental health problems receive the lower rate for mobility, equivalent to £19.55 per week. This may not sound like a lot of money, but in many cases it goes towards the cost of running a car or getting taxis. This means that when someone’s mental health problem prohibits them from using public transport they can still access medical appointments, other services and crucially support from family and friends. Without this money many would become trapped in their homes, unable to access the help and support which prevents them from becoming more unwell.

When the draft assessment for PIP was released we expressed our fears that, similar to the WCA, the new test was not going to be sophisticated enough to recognise the challenges faced by people with mental health problems. Now we have seen the thresholds we are even more worried that many people will suddenly lose out, which could have a devastating impact on their life and cause them serious distress.

One of the reasons the Government has repeatedly given for getting rid of DLA in favour of PIP is that the DLA caseload (and therefore bill) has been ‘spiralling out of control’ over recent years. Behind this increase though, as evidenced in the Responsible Reform (or #SpartacusReport) report produced by volunteer disability campaigners, lies the fact that a growing number of people with mental health problems have been legitimately gaining access to this benefit, which is designed to compensate for the extra costs people face in life because they are disabled but has traditionally focused on physical problems.

Mind will be responding to the Government consultation on the thresholds as we want to make sure that changes are made so that people with mental health problems aren’t unfairly penalised because they don’t fall into what has narrowly been defined as ‘mobility’, for example by broadening descriptive criteria. I am sure that there will also be plenty of feedback from other organisations, not to mention the #Spartacus movement and the Government must listen to all of these voices in order to create a fair an effective system which doesn’t fail the very people it purports to help.

 



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Written by Paul Farmer   
Monday, 23 January 2012 14:39
Last Updated on Monday, 23 January 2012 14:52
 

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