Christmas for £15.90: Mind reveals staggering levels of hardship for over 22,000 mental health inpatients
Posted Monday 13 December 2004
Inpatients on downrated benefits can't even afford the basics, let alone Christmas presents
Mind will today deliver a Christmas card to all MPs revealing the anxiety and stress caused to mental health inpatients when their benefits are downrated. Those in hospital for a year currently see their benefits drop to just £15.90 a week. This hardly provides enough for the basics - clothes, toiletries, telephone calls, for example - let alone gifts at Christmas.
Mind consistently hears from mental health service users about the hardships they face as a result of this policy. These experiences, along with a call for action, are contained in a briefing released by the charity today. The charity believes that downrating inpatients' benefits:
- has a demonstrably adverse effect on mental health - over 22,000 inpatients face a Christmas worrying about debt, not making positive steps towards recovery.
- causes emotional distress - especially at Christmas when people are unable to buy gifts or cards for family and friends.
- considerably damages people's self-esteem and dignity - for instance if they cannot afford to buy toiletries or new clothes.
The charity also believes the policy costs more money than it saves because:
- people discharge themselves from hospital too early in order to try and regain an adequate level of benefits, only to be readmitted at a later date.
- people remain in hospital longer than they would have to if their health was not adversely affected by financial worries.
- people remain in hospital longer than they would have to because their housing situation has worsened as a result of their benefits reduction.
Richard Brook, Chief Executive of Mind, said today, "The average UK adult spends £602 at Christmas on gifts, food, drink and going out (1). Mental health inpatients surviving on £15.90 a week will struggle to afford just a pack of Christmas cards and some stamps on top of basic items such as toiletries.
The Government has said it is committed to reducing the social exclusion of mental health service users - but this policy actively contributes to and exacerbates the problem."
The delivery of the Christmas card forms part of Mind's Ward Watch campaign (2), which highlights the inadequate care received by thousands of people in NHS mental health units.
(1) Source: Deloitte and Touche Annual Retail Sector Christmas Confidence Survey 2003
(2) The Ward Watch campaign aims to improve hospital conditions for people being treated for mental health problems by highlighting current shortcomings and supporting local campaigning by service users, through the Mind network, to improve the planning and delivery of services in hospitals.
The campaign was based a on report which revealed the appalling conditions faced by many inpatients on Britain's psychiatric wards. The report was based on the results of a survey of current and recent mental health inpatients. Despite Government claims that it is a rarity, almost a quarter (23 per cent) of respondents had been currently or recently accommodated in mixed sex wards. Over a quarter (27 per cent) of respondents said they rarely felt safe whilst in hospital, which rose to 46 per cent for non-White British respondents.