As austerity takes its toll on the nation’s purse, there is a growing worry for the public’s mental health.
For those already suffering from mental health problems, stricter policies for benefit claimants, changes in applications and changes in finances can be hugely challenging and difficult to deal with. For those that are susceptible to mental health problems, the drop in income, work status or application could be a stress too far and bring about strong problems.
We caught up with Claire Bennett and Tom Pollard from the Mind Charity for Mental Health to talk about how welfare reforms are affecting those with mental illness, the link between mental health and poverty, and also their recent victory against the DWP and the Work Capability Assessment – which was found to discriminate against those with mental health problems.
You can listen to the interview here.
“We find this all across the benefits system, it’s often counter-productive the way these reforms and policies are being implemented, because people end up feeling worse because of how they’re treated, and end up feeling really under pressure because of the way the system views them and treats them, and actually that pushes people further away from work.”
“There is that element of shame around claiming benefits. People often feel like it’s something that has a lot of stigma attached to it, and obviously mental health is something that has a lot of stigma attached to it, so that’s not a very pleasant combination. And we certainly feel the way the reforms and the people who use benefits have been talked about over the last couple of years, and the public debate around that, has been far from helpful in terms of helping people feel comfortable in claiming the support they’re entitled to and the support they need.”
Tom Pollard, Mind
Unfortunately, that victory that Mind, and all those involved, had to work so hard for is now threatened. The Department for Work and Pensions has now been granted an appeal against the decision that the Work Capability Assessments were discriminatory against those with mental health problems.
Should the DWP win their appeal, the future for those suffering with mental health problems is pretty bleak.
The only hope for a defence of rights for mental illness sufferers in the event of a DWP win is a ‘Atos Mental Function Champion’. This is a role introduced by the DWP as an assessor of the ATOS Fit To Work test, there to “spread best practice and provide advice and coaching to healthcare professionals at any stage in a case”. The good people over at False Economy have been investigating the role and it seems they are yet to find out who they are and what they have improved.
We fear it is just another tick-box for the DWP, to say there is someone watching over the practices of ATOS and their treatment of those with mental illness, when in fact they either do not exist, or will not act as an assessor and independently report on any mis-handlings or advise on improvement.
However, there is a chance to fight back. The consultation over the WCA is now open. If you have had any contact with the Assessment and would like to add your experience and voice to the review, you can – on the government website here.
Mike Sivier, journalist, campaigner, blogger and carer for his disabled girlfriend posted his submission here.
by Kam Sandhu – @KamBass