1. Many people on benefits would like to work but simply can’t because they are too ill. Many of these people claim Employment and Support allowance, the main benefit for people too ill to work. Elements of this are only going to go up by 1%, even though inflation is 2%. So these people will be worse off, even though they didn’t choose to be ill. The claim that the most vulnerable are being protected from this Bill is simply not true.
2. Some people on benefits have to pay for prescriptions. While people with cancer are exempt, people with mental illness on contributory benefits have to pay for prescriptions. Many of our members say they’re not spending their benefits on luxuries but necessities like medication. We are worried about people on benefits being able to afford essentials like food, medication and heating once benefits effectively reduce.
3. Fraud is around 1% but mentioned in 29% of headlines. Lots of our members are fed up with Government Ministers talking so much about fraud. It’s adding to a perception that people on benefits don’t deserve them. In reality many people on benefits would love to earn enough not to claim them-but they are just trying to survive.
4. More and more people are being sent for repeated benefits tests known as the Work Capability Assessment even when their own doctors and medical evidence says their condition is not going to improve. We think that’s a waste of taxpayers’ money. These repeated assessments cause undue stress and a massive toll on people’s health.
5. Over half of the welfare bill goes to pensioners, whose income is being protected. We don’t want pensioners to lose out, but we also want people who are vulnerable, ill or disabled, to have similar protections. Ian Duncan-Smith says it’s hard for pensioners to change their finances-the same is true for someone who is too ill to work. So why protect one group and not the other?
So there you have it. In our view, the decision not to update benefits can only increase people’s vulnerability.
Today is World Suicide Prevention day – and we would like to share this short film that tells the stories of Matt, Cathy and Antony. All have struggled with depression and all were on the verge of completing suicide. Instead they found someone to talk to and eventually pulled through.
Today is World Suicide Prevention Day and we have collaborated in the production of a major new film to raise awareness and provide help and support on World Suicide Prevention Day. Help us raise awareness by watching and sharing this film. Thank you.
Tuesday 4th September – More than eight out of ten GPs say they have patients who have developed mental health problems due to a controversial benefits test, according to new polling released today by the charity Rethink Mental Illness.
Over 1,000 GPs were asked for their views on the impact of the Work Capability Assessment on the mental health of their patients. The test is being used by the Government to determine eligibility for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), which replaced incapacity benefits in 2008. Around 1.5 million people are currently being re-assessed for ESA through the Work Capability Assessment, which is the subject of a Parliamentary debate taking place today.
The polling, commissioned by Rethink Mental Illness, reveals that more than one in five (21%) GPs have patients who have had suicidal thoughts as a result of undergoing, or fear of undergoing, the Work Capability Assessment, while three quarters say that patients who have been negatively affected by the test have needed increased support from them.
Paul Jenkins, Chief Executive of Rethink Mental Illness, said: “These shocking statistics really show that the Work Capability Assessment is pushing some of the most unwell and vulnerable people in our society to the brink. Many people who have a severe mental illness like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder say that their condition has been made even worse as a result of the stress caused by the test. It’s the number one concern for our members, and our staff have been inundated with calls from people who are extremely worried about the impact it is having on their mental health.”
“These figures demonstrate how urgent it is that the Government overhauls the test. It is putting a strain on individuals, families and the NHS. The human and economic costs are too great for the Government to continue with it. We urge the Government to halt the system now – it could be the difference between life and death for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.”
Over 61% of GPs said assessors do not make enough use of their knowledge of the mental health of their patients. Paul Jenkins said: “This highlights one of the most serious problems with the Work Capability Assessment. People undergoing the test are expected to gather their own medical evidence to prove that they are unfit for work, which can be an almost impossible task if you are dealing with symptoms like hearing voices, having delusions or being incapacitated by depression.
“This puts the most vulnerable people with severe mental illness at a serious disadvantage. It means that GPs’ knowledge of their patients’ mental health often goes unconsidered when claims are assessed”.
Dr Clare Gerada, Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), said: “The RCGP supports and works with Rethink Mental Illness because it is championing the rights of people who have a mental illness. We live in a stressful society and GPs are seeing an increasing number of patients with mental health issues and stress-related illness. It’s important that mental health has parity with physical health issues in the way that patients are regarded and looked after in society.”
Ursula Sinclair, 42, from Gloucester, has depression and post traumatic stress disorder. Just days after going through the Work Capability Assessment, she attempted to take her own life. Ursula says: “I was devastated when I was initially told that I didn’t qualify for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) because I know that I’m not fit to work at all. I became extremely distressed, and that this was one of the reasons I took an overdose a few days later.
“We appealed and my ESA was reinstated. However, we now need to go to a tribunal to make the case for me to keep getting ESA in the long term. These past few months have been nerve wracking to say the least, and I’m really worried about what will happen in the future.”
Key findings from the polling:
• 84% of GPs say they have patients who have presented with mental health problems such as stress, anxiety or depression as a result of undergoing, or fear of undergoing, the Work Capability Assessment
• 21% of GPs say they have patients who have had suicidal thoughts as a result of undergoing, or fear of undergoing, the Work Capability Assessment
• 14% of GPs have patients who self-harmed as a result of undergoing, or fear of undergoing, the Work Capability Assessment
• 6% of GPs have patients who have attempted or committed suicide as a result of undergoing, or fear of undergoing, the Work Capability Assessment
• 75% of GPs said that patients who are negatively affected by undergoing, or fear of undergoing, the Work Capability Assessment for Employment and Support Allowance, need increased support from their GP
• 61% of GPs say that JobCentre Plus (via Atos Healthcare) does not makes enough use of their knowledge of the mental health of your patients during the Work Capability Assessment process
• 67% of GPs think that the assessors should seek information from GPs directly for those patients with mental health problems who are too unwell or vulnerable to arrange this themselves
Please see attached case studies of people affected by mental illness who are undergoing the Work Capability Assessment.
For more information, please contact Brian Semple, Media Relations Officer for Rethink Mental Illness email@example.com 0207 840 3043. For out of hours enquiries, call 0207 840 3138.