Mind warns that new benefit risks trapping people with mental health problems at home
Posted Tuesday 17 January 2012
Mind has found that thousands of people with mental health problems currently receiving benefits enabling them to get around could lose out under new Government plans, leaving them trapped in their homes.
The mental health charity has criticised the Government’s proposed eligibility thresholds for people seeking to claim the new personal independence payment (PIP), which will replace the existing disability living allowance (DLA). The new benefit, being debated today in the House of Lords as part of the Welfare Reform Bill, will be made up of a daily living component and a mobility component, each of which will have a standard and an enhanced level.
However, the charity consulted almost 200 people with mental health problems who receive DLA and found that many would struggle to access the new benefit, particularly the mobility component. Currently 85% of people who claim DLA for mental health problems receive the lower rate for mobility, equivalent to £19.55 per week.
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of the mental health charity Mind, said:
365,000 people with mental health problems rely on DLA mobility, using the money to run a car or take taxis so that they can leave the house and go to medical appointments when their anxiety levels prohibit them from taking public transport.
We are alarmed by how difficult it will be for people with mental health problems to qualify for the mobility component of PIP when DLA is abolished. The loss of this money, as little as £20 per week, could have a devastating impact on people’s lives. Deprived of access to essential treatment, services and social contact there is a risk that people will become more unwell, which can in turn incur additional health and social care costs.
This short-sighted move could cause further mental distress, as well as racking up big bills for those services which have to pick up the pieces when an individual becomes seriously unwell.
Mind is calling on the Government to pause the introduction of PIP so that an independent report on the proposals can be carried out before the benefit is introduced, which would accurately assess the suitability of the benefit for people with mental health problems.
Rob receives the lower rate of DLA mobility. He said:
I use all of the money to pay for taxis to appointments, to see my psychiatrist for example. Without being able to use taxis it would be very hard, I don’t think I’d make it to half of my appointments, I’m just too anxious. That would really damage any chances of me getting better and prevent me from making any more progress.
Mind is also warning the Government not to repeat the mistakes it made when replacing incapacity benefits (IB) with the employment support allowance (ESA), eligibility for which was assessed using the work capability assessment (WCA). There is evidence that the WCA is not fit for purpose, and the successful appeal rate for fit-for-work decisions remains high. There is also concern that the private companies contracted to carry out benefit assessment to not have the necessary expertise to understand the complex needs of people with mental health problems.
Mind is urging the Government to accept an amendment to the Welfare Reform Bill from Tanni Grey-Thompson which would require an independent review of the proposals for DLA reform and a trial period of the new assessment for PIP before the changes are introduced. This would allow a chance to properly discuss and analyse the proposals and ensure that disabled people will be effectively supported by the new benefit.