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Despite the seemingly earlier positive announcement in the Autumn Budget for investment in mental health services, the regulations published today confirm many people with mental health problems on existing benefits will be forced to make a new claim for Universal Credit. People risk losing their income - and even their homes - in the process of re-applying for financial support they’re already entitled to.
Many people have told us they struggle to read or understand letters from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), while others are unable to negotiate the complex, labyrinthine process of applying. People in this situation could face having their existing benefits stopped if they have not claimed Universal Credit in time.
Vicki Nash, Head of Policy and Campaigns at mental health charity Mind, said:
“These regulations have confirmed what we have long feared and argued against - that in the move over to Universal Credit (UC) three million people, including hundreds of thousands of people with mental health problems, will be forced to make a new claim. This risks many being left without income and pushed into poverty.
“Overwhelming cross-party concerns about moving people over to Universal Credit (UC) is a testimony to how unfit for purpose the final regulations are. We have repeatedly raised our concerns and are appalled to see them being ignored. The regulations are insignificant in fixing this broken process - as it stands there is still no safety net for people before or during the move to Universal Credit.
“We need a welfare system which works for everyone and allows people to live full and independent lives, not one that leaves people destitute. The Government must do the right thing and withdraw these regulations, before they fall squarely on some of the most vulnerable in society.
"If the regulations are not withdrawn, we are urging them to be voted down.”
Myles is 47 and lives in Thurrock in Essex. He has depression and personality disorder, as well as some physical health problems. Myles currently receives income-based ESA and is extremely concerned about the prospect of moving onto UC. He says:
“I’ve had numerous problems with benefits in the past. In 2014, I lost nine months’ worth of money amounting to around £3000 due to an error resulting from a change in circumstances, which I informed the DWP about. Eventually I got the money back but that was ‘the year that broke me’, I had even made plans to end my life. It wasn’t just about losing my benefits, I also didn’t want my marriage to end and I’d also lost my voluntary work lecturing students at a local university. Everything had been taken away. I went into a tailspin, laying on the sofa for days, not getting up, not washing. I was the image that comes into people’s minds when asked to picture someone with depression. I was like that for many months.
“I live in Thurrock, the constituency of Jackie Doyle-Price who is the Minister for Mental Health and has responsibility for suicide prevention. The Government need to consider the role benefits play in people becoming suicidal. I dread the thought of having to apply for UC. Ever since I lost that money, I’m scared - every time a letter comes through the door with the letters ‘DWP’ on it. The DWP should take responsibility for transferring people onto this new benefit rather than expecting vulnerable people to shoulder it all themselves.”
Find out more and join us in our campaign on Universal Credit.