Giving people a voice
Posted Monday 28 March 2011
Today, Mind joins with many disability charities, disabled people’s organisations and disabled people to announce the calling of a major march and lobby of Parliament on Wednesday May 11 to give us the chance to express concerns about the impact of the Government's welfare reform changes and of the public spending cuts on disabled people.
This is not a decision we have taken lightly, but we know how worried people with mental health problems are about what appears to be coming. The changes to Incapacity Benefit, combined with changes to DLA, and the impact of public spending cuts on services make this a time of great concern to many. This weekend, we saw hundreds of thousands of people marching in London against the cuts, and in May, we want the attention to focus on the impact of the cuts on disabled people, including people with mental health problems.
Mind has been lobbying and campaigning on these issues for many months.
The changes to welfare reform have been designed to root out "the feckless" and "the workshy", but disabled people are neither. In fact many people with mental health problems want help in finding work but face many barriers, including stigma and discrimination, and inadequate support into employment. We believe that the welfare system should support everyone – with dignity – who is unable to work or requires additional support because of a mental health problem. If people are able to return to work, there should be personalised assistance and support to do so. We remain extremely concerned that the mass assessment of people on incapacity benefits, using a test which (despite some changes to the process) lacks the sensitivity to understand conditions such as mental health problems.
I worry that the cumulative impact of the way some of these changes are taking place will impact disproportionately on disabled people — we’re already hearing from our local Minds about how they are trying to help more people with less money. Our recent blog about welfare anxieties has also had many comments from people who are already feeling the effects.
I recently heard David’s story – like many people David gets DLA for the mental health problems he experiences. He finds the process of applying extremely difficult but the money he receives is vital for the additional support he needs. Under the changes, not only will the process become more stressful due to the introduction of a face to face assessment, but David will also be less likely to successfully claim if the targeted savings in the budget result in a higher threshold of eligibility.
This march and the Hardest Hit campaign is about safeguarding the future for disabled people — in the last generation we have seen significant progress, which is now being threatened.
The Government’s mental health strategy sends a clear message to all that cuts to mental health services at this critical time should be seen as a last resort, and this should be clearly communicated to commissioners.
It's not too late to make changes. Slowing the roll out of the Incapacity Benefits reassessment is possible — it will let the changes that the Government have already agreed to, be fully implemented and tested. The Welfare Reform Bill currently going through Parliament can be amended to ensure that disabled people are fairly treated, and that any new assessment for DLA is proportionate and reasonable.
Paul Farmer, Mind Chief Executive
Commenting is now closed.