Challenging the Government’s slip-up on mental health claims

Last week, I told employment minister Priti Patel, that she ‘inadvertently slipped up’ by claiming there is ‘no evidence’ that people with mental health conditions are being sanctioned more than anybody else. I challenged the employment minister during work and pensions questions in the Commons to raise concerns about the impact of social security sanctions on the mental health of claimants.

During the session Patel had claimed: “Our staff are trained to support claimants with mental health conditions and there is no evidence to suggest that such claimants are being sanctioned more than anybody else.”

However, I informed the minister that she may have inadvertently slipped up there. There is clear evidence from last year that 58%, more than half, of people with mental health conditions on the employment and support allowance work-related activity group were sanctioned. According to a Mind survey, 83% say that their health condition was made worse as a result.

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.” I have been asking the Government to set up an independent inquiry into the effect of sanctions for the last two years and again, I asked the Government why they would not commit to undertaking an independent review of sanctions.

A recent parliamentary briefing for MPs from MIND states:

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There is no evidence that conditionality works for people with mental health problems.
Conditionality has become an unchallenged aspect of back-to-work support. Yet, there is no evidence to show that this policy has a positive impact on the success of back-to-work support for people with mental health problems. The fact is the use of conditionality for people with mental health problems in ESA WRAG is neither appropriate nor effective.

Over half of people (50.5%) receiving Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) have a mental health and behavioural disorder as their primary condition. That’s almost 250,000 people under constant threat of sanction. The use of conditionality is not balanced by the back-to-work support provided.

There is a disproportionate impact on people with mental health problems.

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