In a report, the Work and Pensions Select Committee, a cross-party committee of MPs, have recommended a full independent review into benefits sanctions.
Sanctions – reducing somebody’s financial support when they are deemed to have not complied with certain activities – are disproportionately applied to people with mental health problems compared to those with other health conditions. Mind has been providing evidence to the inquiry highlighting the damaging effect sanctions are having - not just on people’s finances but also their health.
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said:
“We welcome this report and the committee’s recommendation to review benefits sanctions. People with mental health problems are more likely to suffer punitive benefits cuts than other groups, sanctioned even if they miss appointments because they are unwell. People are unfairly treated as though they don’t want to work and, in the meantime they are made to attend CV-writing classes and other activities that might be wholly unnecessary, as part of a one-size-fits-all system that doesn’t take individual needs into account. Forcing people to engage in these activities, and threatening to cut their benefits if they struggle to do so, is inappropriate and only causes greater anxiety and stress, making returning to work less likely. This is also why we are pleased that the committee have called for more effective back-to-work support for people with disabilities and long term health conditions."
“We especially welcome the committee’s recommendation that better evidence is collected on whether sanctions work. We are finding it difficult to get good data about sanctions from the DWP at the moment and have yet to be given basic information on the number of people with mental health problems affected, which we requested under the Freedom of Information Act almost 100 days ago. Good data is essential if we are to ensure the system works as it should and to hold government to account."
“We hope that the DWP will accept and implement these recommendations. In the meantime people with mental health problems are still living with the threat of sanctions, in a system that doesn’t understand their needs. Whoever forms our next government needs to take urgent action to address this. We are calling on the next government to move everyone who is out of work because of their mental health problem onto new, locally commissioned schemes which reflect individual and local needs and addresses the real reasons people are unable to work.”