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Fresh Attack will Damage Mental Health

New wave of welfare cuts slammed as ‘counter-productive’ by campaigners

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH’S latest claimed bid to get those with mental health problems into work will only push people further into ill health, campaigners warned yesterday as the Work and Pensions Secretary proposed another shake-up to the sanctions regime.

He insisted that working was a “health treatment” that could “transform their lives for the better” — especially those with “common mental health problems.”

He detailed plans to make employment and support allowance (ESA) claimants undergo “proper” work capability assessments to gauge what jobs they could do.

Mr Duncan Smith — who presides over the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) — said that the current system has to change as it’s too “binary” in either sanctioning people to find employment or ruling that they are “too sick to work.”

But work capability assessments carried out by privateers have failed in the past, forcing those too ill to earn a wage to go through DWP’s work programme or face losing their benefits.

Civil Service union PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “The government wants to cut the numbers of people on ESA by at least a million and appears intent on punishing those in need of support in order to meet that target.”

The DWP’s new punishing “reforms” will be “hugely counter-productive” to people’s well-being and their ability to find and keep a job, said mental health charity Mind.

Spokesperson Sophie Corlett said: “What people need is support. What they don’t need is more pressure and sanctions.

“Threatening to punish people by cutting their benefits when they fail to do certain mandatory activities has a negative effect on people’s mental health, and actually pushes people further from work; it is hugely counter-productive.”

Mind warned the system is currently “failing” mental health sufferers as only about 8 per cent of ESA claimants are being helped by the work programme, Ms Corlett added.

Labour leadership frontrunner Jeremy Corbyn called for the work capability assessments to be abolished.

“The work capability assessment has been an unmitigated disaster for disabled people, as well as for the reputation of the DWP, its ministers, and the contractors involved.

“I share the view of the huge coalition of DWP workers, medical professionals, disabled people’s organisations, the TUC and dozens of MPs who are calling for it to be scrapped.”

National deaf/blind charity Sense said that Mr Duncan Smith’s plans are a result of “looking at [the issue] from the wrong end of the telescope” and risk “making problems worse for disabled people.”

Richard Kramer, deputy chief executive, added: “The fault line is often not the benefits system but ensuring that we dismantle the many barriers that prevent people getting opportunities to work in the first place.”

The obstacles to finding employment vary from bosses’ negative attitudes, failures to make reasonable workplace adjustments, reduced support from Access to Work and inaccessible transport, he continued.

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