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Benefit sanctions - calling for change

Tuesday, 13 January 2015 Andy Kempster, Policy and Campaigns Officer

Andy Kempster, Policy and Campaigns Officer, explains why we're campaigning on benefit sanctions and back-to-work schemes

People with mental health problems are currently facing lots of problems with the benefits system. We frequently hear from our campaigners, members and supporters that they aren’t getting the support they need and that the benefits system just doesn’t understand them. That is why we have been campaigning to make the system fairer and more effective for people with mental health problems.

As part of this work we were recently asked to go and talk to a group of MPs looking into the issue of benefit sanctions, which is when someone’s money is cut because they are thought to have not complied with the rules of the benefit they are on.

Our Chief Executive Paul Farmer explained why benefit sanctions are a big issue for people with mental health problems to the committee. Sanctions for people on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) are on the increase and people with mental health problems are more at risk of receiving them compared to people with other health conditions. Not only this, but sanctions are actually making people’s health worse, pushing them further from work. We think this is wrong and shows that the system doesn’t understand mental health.

See what we're campaigning on

However, as our new report, We’ve got work to do, shows, sanctions are only part of the story. Current back-to-work schemes just aren’t working. They aren’t providing the personalised and tailored support people need. Instead, people are being asked to undertake activities that they struggle with or lose their benefit. As our report says, things needs to change.

But, there is a lot of hope (honest). Government and policymakers know that there are problems, and that is why they want to talk to organisations like us to help fix them. It may take a while, but we will get there. But, we can’t do it alone. We need your help to really show MPs and Government that this is a big issue.  You can help by asking your MP to read our new report calling for better back-to-work support.

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Information and support

When you’re living with a mental health problem, or supporting someone who is, having access to the right information - about a condition, treatment options, or practical issues - is vital. Visit our information pages to find out more.


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Blogs and stories can show that people with mental health problems are cared about, understood and listened to. We can use it to challenge the status quo and change attitudes.

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