Key issues - what we’re doing
We understand that benefits and welfare reform are issues of fundamental importance to a huge number of people with mental health problems. That's why it's a priority campaign for Mind.
We are working on a number of fronts to fight for the interests of people with mental health problems in the welfare reform process.
The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) is the gateway to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), which is replacing existing incapacity benefits (IB). New applicants for ESA have been going through the WCA since October 2008, and reporting significant problems with the process. Current IB claimants have also begun to be transferred to ESA.
Mind has worked with other mental health charities to strongly influence Professor Harrington's initial Independent Review of the assessment in 2010 and his second report in 2011. We feel that Professor Harrington has correctly identified many of the key problems with the assessment and we believe his recommendations will improve the system. However, we believe more fundamental reform of the system is needed and we have told the Independent Review this in our 2012 submission.
We are also continuing to push for the implementation of the proposals we produced with Mencap and the National Autistic Society to improve the criteria for assessing mental health, learning disabilities and autism. The Government has agreed to test these proposals and the current system. We hope to have the outcome of this important piece of work in Spring 2013.
Disability Living Allowance reform
The Government is planning to replace DLA with a new benefit called Personal Independence Payment (PIP). The new benefit will have a new assessment of eligibility which the Government expects to lead to a 20 per cent cut in the cost of the benefit.
We oppose this cut: DLA provides vital support by recognising the extra costs of living with a disability and is claimed by far fewer people than are currently eligible. We are very concerned that people with mental health problems, particularly those on lower levels of DLA payment, may lose out as a result of these reforms.
We are campaigning against these changes but also engaging with the reform process to ensure that the interests of people with mental health problems are properly represented. You can read our response to the DLA consultation. The Government has also released a set of draft assessment criteria for the new benefit. You can read our response to the most recent consultation on this assessment.
We will continue to fight for a fairer assessment system and to ensure that whoever delivers the assessment learns from the mistakes of Atos and the WCA.
The Work Programme will be introduced in the summer of 2011 and will replace all existing back-to-work schemes with one central programme. We have a number of concerns about the current plans and we have submitted our concerns to the Government.
Although there is no formal consultation process for the introduction of the Work Programme, we will continue to closely monitor the process and pressure the Government to ensure that there is suitable support for people with mental health problems to return to work.
We are particularly concerned about some of the conditions and sanctions that people could be subject to as part of the Work Programme and we will be challenging these changes in the Welfare Reform Bill.
We strongly oppose the tone of much of the media and political rhetoric on people claiming benefits. Not only is it misleading to focus so heavily on fraudulent claims when these make up a minority of cases, but it is also damaging to the majority group of honest claimants.
People claiming benefits because they need support due to a mental health condition feel demonised by terms such as 'scrounger', and the negative way in which they are portrayed can significantly set back their recovery.
We have achieved significant media coverage around particular welfare reform milestones, such as the IB migration pilots, and have challenged negative press, most recently through the production and distribution of our own tabloid paper - The Daily Stigma.
We will continue to push for more balanced coverage of this issue.