Benefit sanctions rebuke on mentally ill claimants
Date published: 10 November 2015
Debbie Abrahams, Oldham East and Saddleworth MP
OLDHAM MP Debbie Abrahams has hit out at Employment Minister Priti Patel after she claimed there was “no evidence” that people with mental health conditions who are out of work are being sanctioned more than anybody else.
Oldham East and Saddleworth MP Mrs Abrahams challenged the minister during work and pensions questions in the Commons to raise concerns about the impact of social security sanctions on the mental health of claimants.
During the session the minister had claimed: “Our staff are trained to support claimants with mental health conditions and there is no evidence to suggest that such claimants are being sanctioned more than anybody else.”
Mrs Abrahams, who is Shadow minister for Disabled People, responded: “The minister may have inadvertently slipped up there. There is clear evidence from last year that 58 per cent, more than half, of people with mental health conditions on the employment and support allowance work-related activity group were sanctioned.”
A recent Freedom of Information request showed that between April, 2014, and March this year there were almost 20,000 benefit sanctions received by people who were out of work because of their mental health.
However, in this same period only 6,340 of the group were successfully supported into employment during the same period by the Work Programme.
Tom Pollard, policy and campaigns manager at mental health charity Mind, said: “Figures obtained by us show that people with mental health problems are more likely to have their benefits stopped than those with other conditions.
“Last year, the Department of Work and Pensions issued more sanctions to people with mental health problems being supported by Employment and Support Allowance than they did to those with other health conditions.
“Stopping somebody’s benefits, or threatening to stop them, is completely the wrong approach to help people with mental health problems find work — it’s actually counterproductive.
“In continually refusing to listen to calls for a review of the use of sanctions, the Government is not only undermining its ambition of helping a million more disabled people into work, but is also failing its duty of care for the health and wellbeing of hundreds of thousands of people with mental health problems.”