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Depression and anxiety sufferers ‘to lose sickness benefits in welfare reforms’

29 Apr 2024 4 minute read
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Benjamin Cremel /PA Wire

People suffering from depression or anxiety could lose access to sickness benefits as part of the UK Government’s major welfare reforms, the Work and Pensions Secretary has said.

Mel Stride is set to announce plans to overhaul the way disability benefits work in a statement to the Commons on Monday, with proposals aimed at providing “more tailored support in line with their needs”.

In a Green Paper due to be published alongside Mr Stride’s statement, ministers will set out plans to reform personal independence payments (PIP), the main disability benefit, through changes to eligibility criteria and assessments.

The plans, which will be consulted on over the coming months, also include proposals to “move away from a fixed cash benefit system”, meaning people with some conditions will no longer receive regular payments but rather improved access to treatment if their condition does not involve extra costs.

In an interview with The Times, Mr Stride suggested this would mean people with “milder mental health conditions” would no longer receive financial support.

Monday’s proposals follow a speech in which the Prime Minister announced major changes to the welfare system earlier this month, saying “people with less severe mental health conditions should be expected to engage with the world of work”.

Reforms

Mr Stride said the system should not be paying people to deal with the “ordinary difficulties of life” and suggested that many voters “deep down” agreed with him.

Describing the reforms as “probably the most fundamental reforms in a generation”, he said: “There are those that have perhaps milder mental health conditions, or where perhaps there has been too great a move towards labelling certain behaviours as having certain [medical] conditions attached to them, where actually work is the answer or part of the answer.

“What we’ve got to avoid is being in a situation where we too readily say, ‘Well, actually, we need you to be on benefits’.”

Mr Stride said a “whole plethora of things”, such as talking therapies, social care packages and respite care, could be used as alternatives to benefit payments.

He added the main reason for the changes was to provide better help and not cut costs, but he acknowledged the cost “has to be one of the considerations”.

James Taylor, the executive director of strategy at disability equity charity Scope called to end the “reckless assault” on disabled people and to fix the “real underlying issues”.

“It’s hard to have any faith that this consultation is about anything other than cutting the benefits bill, no matter the impact,” Mr Taylor said.

“Life costs a lot more for disabled people, including people with mental health conditions. Threatening to take away the low amount of income PIP provides won’t solve the country’s problems.

“The government needs to end this reckless assault on disabled people and focus on how to fix the real underlying issues.”

Benefits

The number of monthly PIP awards for mental health disorders has doubled since 2019, from 2,200 to 5,300, in line with an increase in overall PIP awards which have also doubled to 33,000 a month.

Rishi Sunak said Monday’s Green Paper marked “the next chapter of our welfare reforms” that would make the benefits system “fairer to the taxpayer, better targeted to individual needs and harder to exploit”.

He said: “It’s clear that our disability benefits system isn’t working in the way it was intended, and we’re determined to reform it to ensure it’s sustainable for the future, so we can continue delivering support to those who genuinely need it most.”

The three key changes set to be included in the Green Paper are:

– changing PIP eligibility criteria to better reflect how conditions affect a claimant’s daily life;

– making the PIP assessment more closely linked to someone’s condition, including removing assessments entirely for some conditions supported by medical evidence;

– moving away from a fixed cash benefit for some conditions, providing either one-off grants for specific costs such as home adaptation, or ensuring access to “alternative means of support”.

The Government hopes the overall impact will be to move to a system where PIP is more geared towards covering the actual extra costs faced by people with disabilities.

The consultation will run for 12 weeks, closing on July 23.


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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
26 days ago

The King of Hell…Yama…!

Jeff
Jeff
26 days ago

Conservative policy designed to cause absolute harm that is, full of hate for people they hammer down into the dirt with no chance to get up, they keep hammering down, need a leg up to survive? Sunak will chop that leg off and sell it to a hedge fund. Sunak really must want to lose the GE.

We don’t need a Rwanda policy, just look at the way the Tory party treat people in need.

Tory Britain, if you are rich and a Conservative donor, you will be OK. Just trying to earn a crust to survive, jog on.

Linda Jones
Linda Jones
26 days ago

Typical tories, throw vulnerable people under a bus while doing nothing about the £billions lost to the economy by tax dodging. Not even sure how tory idea would work. If mental health services in the NHS worked as they should many claimants would probably be ok but a lack of services condemns them. Surely tories need to sort out the NHS before cutting the few supports available to those suffering from anxiety and depression.

hdavies15
hdavies15
26 days ago
Reply to  Linda Jones

Policy is to make people’s depression and anxiety even worse. Tory M.P’s may be anxious about losing their jobs, even get depressed about it, but most of them have wealth or access to “the next job”. Classic case of “I’m all right jack, f**k you”

Elaine
Elaine
26 days ago

The only thing the Tories have left is performative cruelty.
I don’t know whether this would have to go through a full parliamentary procedure or whether they are able to essentially wave it through given the amount of Henry VIII powers they’ve awarded themselves. The first option would probably mean it won’t happen.
No wonder the UN has found UK government in breach of 3 articles of the Disability Treaty they signed a few years ago.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/disability-68570042

Mawkernewek
Mawkernewek
26 days ago
Reply to  Elaine

The danger is that Keir Starmer just goes along with it, because copying the Tories is a surer guide to his priorities than the manifesto he stood on, or the pledges he made in the leadership contest.

Sikejsudjek
Sikejsudjek
26 days ago

Seems 300,000 early deaths caused by austerity wasn’t enough.

Les Cargot
Les Cargot
26 days ago

Bastards!

Mawkernewek
Mawkernewek
26 days ago

This is political theatre given they are unlikely to actually still be in power to implement any of this.
With a consultation running until 23rd July, they have an excuse to delay the election a little while longer while they try to look busy, in the hope that some event will arise that will change things in their favour.
Its concerning that Sunak seems to think people with mental health problems ought to be getting their treatment via applying to the DWP rather than as something that should be available on the NHS.

Steve A Duggan
Steve A Duggan
25 days ago

“Mr Stride said the system should not be paying people to deal with the “ordinary difficulties of life” and suggested that many voters “deep down” agreed with him.” – Another Tory whose out of touch with the public, he hasn’t a clue. He thinks people are as cruel, heartless and insensitve as himself and his party. How wrong he is. Let’s hope he doesn’t get mental health problems himself when he picks up his P45 later in the year.

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