Belfast Telegraph

Home News UK

Campaigners condemn welfare reforms

A group of mental health campaigners has claimed the Government's reform of the welfare system is having a "devastating" effect on those suffering from such problems.

In an open letter the mental health experts labelled the work capability assessment, which will be used to reassess people on incapacity benefit (IB) "deeply flawed".

Writing in The Guardian, the group, which includes Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, said: "We've found that the prospect of IB reassessment is causing huge amounts of distress, and tragically there have already been cases where people have taken their own life following problems with changes to their benefits."

He continued: "We are hugely worried that the benefits system is heading in a direction which will put people with mental health problems under even more pressure and scrutiny, at a time when they are already being hit in other areas such as cuts to services."

Other signatories include Paul Jenkins, chief executive, Rethink Mental Illness; Professor Bob Grove, joint chief executive, Centre for Mental Health; Dr Jed Boardman, consultant and senior lecturer in social psychiatry, Royal College of Psychiatrists; Bill Walden-Jones, chief executive, Hafal and Billy Watson, chief executive, Scottish Association for Mental Health.

They added: "There needs to be a shift towards a more sympathetic and supportive system that genuinely takes into account the additional challenges people with mental health problems face and can make a real objective assessment of their needs rather than placing them into a situation where their wellbeing is put at risk."

The Department for Work and Pensions said the Government wanted to ensure the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) was "as fair and accurate as possible".

A DWP spokeswoman said: "We have accepted all of Professor Harrington's recommendations from the first year of his independent review and have already put in place his recommendation to create a network of 'mental health, intellectual and cognitive champions' in each Atos Medical Examination Centre to spread best practice and build understanding of these conditions.

"In consultation with charities such as Mind, Professor Harrington is now looking at the way mental health is assessed in the WCA and we look forward to receiving his recommendations later this year."

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.


From Belfast Telegraph