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More than 100 people per day with mental health problems have benefits sanctioned

Over 100 people a day with mental health problems are having their benefits sanctioned, according to Freedom of Information requests by the Methodist Church in Britain.

The data, obtained from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), showed that in March 2014 alone – the last month for which data is available – around 4,500 people with mental health problems who receive the sickness and disability benefit Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) because of mental health problems had their benefits sanctioned.

The Methodist Church public issues policy adviser, Paul Morrison, said: ‘We believe that the number of people with mental health problems who have their benefit stopped due to being sanctioned is in fact a great deal higher than 100 a day. Not included in these figures are people who receive ESA due to a physical illness, but who have a higher risk of mental health difficulties.’

According to the DWP data, the most common reason for being sanctioned is that a person has been late or not turned up for a work programme appointment.

But Morrison added: ‘Sanctioning someone with a mental health problem for being late for a meeting is like sanctioning someone with a broken leg for limping. The fact that this system punishes people for the symptoms of their illness is a clear and worrying sign that it is fundamentally flawed.’

Mental health charity Mind’s chief executive Paul Farmer said: ‘It’s unjustifiable that people with mental health problems are being sanctioned disproportionately compared to those who have another health problem. Stopping benefits does not help people with mental health problems back into work. In fact, it often results in people becoming more anxious and unwell and this makes a return to work less likely.’

Readers' comments (10)

  • Vinci Ho

    Perhaps politicians really think these patients would not or could not cast their votes in the general election. So why not walk over them?

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  • it is a fine balance, people in this day and age are motivated by finances, its is unfortunate but people attending the Job centre or interviews feel judged, 'messed about', frustrated, ashamed, guilty, short changed, and a host of negative emotions. these get exacerbated due to mental health disorders, but for the job centre do they have any other way of ensuring engagement?, having a tiered system would help. although the numbers look astounding, but when you look deeper one would find some sense behind some measures.

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  • Those not producing profits ! So it Geriatrics next followed by Paediatrics then the Disabled - Its the Final Solution

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  • And those "Carers" looking after them too,

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  • Wholly agree with 8:40 - there is a lot of abuse of the system and a fine balance is required to encourage MH patients to abide by certain norms while continuing to support them. It would be negligent to allow them 100% leeway and lift all controls because then a lot of them wouldn't even care to see a health professional.
    I have noted that some of them do not see a health professional for a whole year and dna all apointments but when the benefits are stopped because you write in the ESA -' Effect of disabilty - not known as not seen in 12 months@, they do arrive puctually to get things set right.
    Missing appointments is not acceptable and that should be a very clear signal to the patient and carers.

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  • Mental health covers a huge range of problems, from psychosis to unpleasant personality. We need more detail before we offer any opinion.
    DSM 5 or ICD, makes a huge difference

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  • just wow. 'But Morrison added: ‘Sanctioning someone with a mental health problem for being late for a meeting is like sanctioning someone with a broken leg for limping.'

    so someone with a broken leg has to limp, and that's the same as someone with a mental health problem, has to be late! what gibberish. they come to see me for their sicklines on time no problem. some rules have to be set. and making a meeting to continue to have the PRIVILEDGE of claiming benefits is one of them

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  • @11.49 claiming benefits is not a privilege its a right of the country we live in. Mental health patients are often extremely vulnerable and attending appointments on time can be difficult. This does need to be managed better as withholding benefits has devastating effects. Have anyone ever tried to ring a benefits agency? Its the most expensive premium rate call you will make. it is near impossible to ring and say you're unwell or don't have the bus fare to travel. Well done the methodist church for bringing this to light.

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  • Ok it is a right, but to do so you have to fill in a form to process a claim yes, and you have to make meetings for reviews. I don't disagree that they are vulnerable and meetings are difficult, but without the meetings opens up more opportunities for the system to be abused. The rules at the outset are clear, miss a meeting, your benefits will be stopped. yes more can be done to facilitate ringing the agency and postponing meetings etc. and surely you would keep a few quid for the bus in mind. better not to be sanctioned and not get anything at all right.

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  • Oh dear. Comments from Anonymous at 5.39pm are demonstrating frustration are they not?
    On a related subject, I am a former healthcare professional now engaged with research. I have been invited to conduct some as yet unreported consequences of the (savage) welfare 'reforms' in that anecdotal evidence suggests that significant numbers of patients who have a long-term serious physical health problem are developing the onset of mental health problems due to the relentless DWP reviews for benefits for a health condition that can't improve. The constant threat of being removed from the benefit needed for survival is paramount.
    To conduct the research I need 20 minutes of a GP's time for a telephone survey. Any GP s happy to co-operate with what may be valuable research should please contact me at: in the first instance.
    To view previous research please Google 'Mo Stewart'
    Many thanks.

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