Mind responds as Work and Pensions Committee identifies flaws in proposed Incapacity Benefit reforms
Posted Saturday 6 May 2006
Increased focus on mental health and recognition of complexity of issues welcomed
Mental health charity Mind has reacted positively to the report published today of the Work and Pensions Committee Inquiry into Incapacity Benefit. MPs are recommending an increased focus on mental health issues, given that 40 per cent of Incapacity Benefit (IB) claimants have a mental health diagnosis and the complex nature of these difficulties. Mind has long campaigned against the proposed reforms to IB, fearing that the Government's stated aim of taking one million people off the benefit in the next ten years will see many with mental health problems pressured back to work too soon.
Mind strongly supports recommendations put forward by the cross-party group around the development of the new eligibility test, or Personal Capability Assessment (PCA), specifically that it should reflect the complexity and fluctuating nature of mental health problems. The Committee supports the view of Mind and other mental health organisations, that mental health service users and representative organisations should be at the heart of the group reviewing the PCA system, a system which should not be rolled out without piloting.
The charity's concerns about standards of training among Incapacity Benefit Personal Advisors (IBPA) are reflected in the Committee's recommendation that staff should receive ongoing training on disability and mental health awareness, and Mind also welcomes the recommended review of IBPA's salaries. The recommendations on the development of in-work support beyond six months, the expansion of the access to work scheme and increased publicity of that scheme are also particularly welcome. However, Mind shares the Committee's fundamental concern that the £360 million allocated for the national roll out of Pathways to Work, the foundation of further reforms, will be insufficient to complete these ambitious aims.
Sue Christoforou, Policy Officer at Mind, said of today's report:
"Addressing the mental health issues of IB claimants in a fair and professional manner is key to the success of the reformed benefit and the Committee has recognised this. Now it's time to make sure the Government does the same - we urge the DWP to act on the Committee's recommendations. Failure to do so will be counterproductive, serving to increase anxiety and distress, and reducing the prospects of a successful return to work for thousands."