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Mind responds to Health and Disability Green Paper and UK Government's 'Health is Business' response

Wednesday, 21 July 2021 Mind

The UK Government has published their Health and Disability Green Paper asking for people to take part in their public consultation on what changes people want to see to the Benefits system. 

The UK Government have also published their response to the Health is Everyone’s Business consultation which proposed changes to Statutory Sick Pay. 

In responding to the Health and Disability Green Paper, Geoff Heyes, Head of Health, Policy and Campaigns says: 

“We are pleased the UK Government has published their Disability Green Paper. For too long people have died at the hands of a cruel benefits system and this cannot continue. Never has it been more important for long overdue reforms to the benefits system to make sure people can access the support they are entitled to, rather than being pushed further into poverty.

“The Disability Green Paper is a major opportunity to make sure that the benefits system is there to help people thrive and not punish people for being too unwell to work. Benefits have the power to transform people’s lives. With the right help, people with mental health problems can get the security they need to move forward with their lives, to build connections with other people, and live more independently.

“Mind regularly hears from people experiencing mental health problems, left short at the hands of a needlessly complicated and stressful system, which can cause someone’s mental health to worsen, sometimes to the point of suicide. Whether it’s the insensitive assessments in which people are often asked to recount trauma and suicide attempts, or feeling constantly worried they will be sanctioned and their lifeline cut off, this system too often prevents people from keeping afloat.

“Many thousands of people will be left with long term impacts from this period, whether because of bereavement, unemployment, trauma, or the weathering effect of life during lockdown. The UK Government must make sure that the benefits system is there to help people thrive and not punish people for being too unwell to work.”

To begin the process of fixing the benefits system, we’re calling on the UK Government to:

• Give people choice on the method of benefit assessment and carry out these assessments less frequently.
• Design a new benefits assessment process through an independent commission led by disabled people.
• End benefit sanctions for disabled people and those of us who are unwell.
• Create an independent regulator to hold the Department for Work and Pensions and assessment providers to account.
• Increase benefit rates so that they meet people’s needs.

In response to Health is Everyone’s Business response, Geoff Heyes says: 

Sick Pay

“Rates of people working who are in poverty have risen sharply – and we know unpredictable, low paid jobs, which don’t support people’s wellbeing can have a devastating impact on people’s mental health.

“We are disappointed to see no changes to improve sick pay in the Health is Everyone’s Business response out today. The UK Government are choosing to do nothing to address the problems faced by people with mental health problems who need to take time off sick.

“The UK Government talks about levelling up, but then has shown that they are not committed to making needed reforms to make sure people are financially supported at this time. People in and out of work need to be offered stability and protection when their mental health prevents them from working.

“Good sick pay can be a lifeline for those of us whose mental health takes a hit while we’re in work. Sick pay can reduce the risk of people reaching crisis point, allowing us to take the time we need to focus on our mental health, rather than forcing ourselves into work because we are worried about our finances.

“Instead, the current Statutory Sick Pay system puts those of us with mental health problems at risk of being plunged into poverty. Statutory Sick Pay is just £96.35 a week, and not available until the fourth day of sickness absence. If our finances are already tight, this sudden drop leaves us with the impossible and unfair choice of taking care of our mental health or being able to pay bills or buy food. The UK Government has the power to fix this.”

We’re calling on them to:

• Make Statutory Sick Pay payable from the first day we’re off sick 
• Increase the rate of Statutory Sick Pay to match the minimum wage 
• Provide a rebate of Statutory Sick Pay for small employers
• Make Statutory Sick Pay available to people on lower incomes, who are currently not eligible for sick pay
• Make phased returns to work possible with Statutory Sick Pay, so that people can return to the workplace in the best way for them.

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