Responding to the Government’s Health and Work Green Paper published this afternoon Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said:
“Following the publication of today’s Green paper, we welcome the Government’s intention to improve back to work support for people with mental health problems but are disappointed that it does not go as far as considering a fundamental rethink of the way conditionality and sanctions are used.
If the benefits system is to truly work for people with mental health problems, it needs to be built on understanding and empathy, with personalised support delivered by skilled and experienced staff, and a culture of supporting people to fulfil their individual aspirations, not simply pressuring them to comply.
The Green Paper contains some positive measures including a recognition that Jobcentre staff need more support and training, and increased funding for peer support. Yet it is concerning that the Government is even considering the option to extend the threat of benefit sanctions to people in the Support Group. These are people who have been assessed as too unwell to take steps towards work and it’s vital that any support they are offered is entirely voluntary and sensitive to their health needs.
People with mental health problems tell us that the current fit-for-work test causes a great deal of additional anxiety. We know the assessors rarely have sufficient knowledge or expertise in mental health, meaning many people don’t get the right outcome and then have to go through a lengthy and costly appeals process. We believe the current approach is not fit for purpose and needs to be replaced by an open and honest conversation based on each person’s individual needs. Any replacement needs to recognise that some people will be too unwell to move closer to work and should not face inappropriate pressure to do so at the expense of their health.”
Mind will be responding in detail to this consultation which closes in February 2017. We will be encouraging people to tell us their views to help inform this process as well as urging people to respond direct with their own experiences.