THE CENTRE for Mental Health has issued a statement on the UK Government’s budget and its Health and Disability White Paper, saying that they signal major changes to the benefits system which could have profound impacts on people’s mental health, as well as falling well short of addressing the major challenges many people are facing,

The independent think tank’s  interim chief executive, Andy Bell, said: “The [UK] Government’s proposal to abolish the Work Capability Assessment in the next Parliament could bring to an end a system that has caused great harm to people living with mental health difficulties. But in its absence it is more important that the ways Personal Independence Payment (PIP) eligibility are assessed are fair and effective for people with mental health difficulties so that no one misses out on the benefits they need to live on.

“We are deeply concerned about any increase in the use of benefit conditions or sanctions. They do not help people to find work, they impoverish people and families, and they put many people’s mental health at serious risk. We call on the Government to publish its review of the health impacts of benefit sanctions immediately and to make all future decisions about their use with people’s health and safety in mind. Until then, we believe that the use of benefit sanctions should be suspended so that no one’s mental health is put at risk from this punitive practice.

“Research shows that poverty is toxic to mental health. We urge the Government to ensure that benefit payments enable everyone to afford life’s basics and that people in work get paid the Real Living Wage. While we welcome the extension of the energy price guarantee for a further three months, the Budget will not lift enough people out of poverty to turn around the rising prevalence of mental ill health in Britain today.

“We welcome any effective measures to enable people with mental health difficulties to gain employment. The Individual Placement and Support (IPS) approach is far ahead of any other way of supporting people into paid work and it has been shown to improve people’s mental health long-term. To be successful, the Government must ensure that the principles of IPS are always maintained, including in its proposed new Universal Support programme. That means helping people into the jobs they want, when they want to try out work. It means never mandating work-seeking, nor writing people off. And it means supporting people once they start work for as long as they need it.

“We welcome the principle of extending free childcare from next year but have serious concerns about the proposed approach, which could disadvantage families with the lowest incomes by limiting eligibility to those working more than 16 hours a week.”

* More about the Disability White Paper here.

* Source: Centre for Mental Health