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People with mental health problems are being made even more unwell by the Government’s system of benefits assessments, a report reveals. Almost seven in 10 (66 percent) of claimants living with conditions such as bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety told mental health charity Mind that going through the assessment process made their mental health worse.
The current system frequently leaves applicants feeling confused, anxious and angry, and assessors reach “incorrect decisions far too often”, Mind told the Express.
The charity’s CEO, Sarah Hughes, said the Government urgently needs to shift from “gatekeeping benefits” to “prioritising support for disabled people”.
She said: “Benefit assessments should be providing the Department for Work and Pensions with an accurate picture of a person’s needs, so that person can get the support they need to get by.
“Instead, our findings show that not only are far too many assessments inaccurate but that they are also leaving the majority of people more unwell.”
Mind’s report – Reassessing Assessments: How People With Mental Health Problems Can Help Fix The Broken Benefits System – highlights the urgent need for the Government to better invest in training for assessors on understanding mental health issues.
Almost half (46 percent) of those assessed for Personal Independence Payment (PIP), and over a third (36 percent) of people assessed for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Universal Credit (UC) feel their benefits assessor did not understand mental health problems.
Mind says this “must be addressed” as roughly one in three people receiving PIP and half of all claimants receiving ESA, have a mental health problem, cognitive impairment or learning difficulty as their main disability.
There has been a shift in focus from the Government towards getting people who are off work long-term back into the workforce.
But Mind warns this approach is likely to fail when the DWP’s own processes are making people struggle more.
The charity wants the Government to create a new commission, led by disabled people, tasked with proposing reforms to the structure and criteria of benefit assessments.
It also wants to see it establish an independent regulator for the benefits system to help hold the Government to account, protect the rights of disabled people and enforce improved assessments.
A DWP spokesman said: “Our assessors are all qualified health professionals and decisions are made using all the information available to us. If someone disagrees they have the right to ask for a review.”
They said the Government was increasing investment in mental health services in England “by at least £2.3billion a year by 2024”.