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Government changes incapacity benefits system

1st June 2011

Campaigners have warned that government changes to the benefits system are already having a devastating effect on people with mental health problems.

mentalhealthward1

In a letter to the Guardian newspaper, the group - including charities such as Mind, Rethink, the Centre for Mental Health, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Welsh charity Hafal and the Scottish Association for Mental Health - have voiced criticism of the work capability assessment (WCA), which will be used to reassess people on incapacity benefit.

Under changes, the government plans to reassess all 2.6 million people on incapacity benefit and its successor employment support allowance (ESA) by 2014 to help more people get back to work and reduce the cost to the nation of welfare support.

The WCA determines whether applicants are entitled to the highest rate of ESA or are considered “fit for work.”

In their letter, the organisations said the prospect of incapacity reassessment was cause “huge amounts of distress.”

They say there are already examples of people having committed suicide following problems with benefit changes.

The group wrote: “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.”

The Department for Work and Pensions said it was working closely with mental health campaigners to address the concerns and stressed that all claimants had a right to appeal if they were unhappy with the outcome of their test.

 

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Comments

Chris May

Sunday 5th June 2011 @ 13:00

Although this article is true to its source, we are grateful to AP Dean for pointing out that the number of people technically on Incapacity Benefit is currently only 1.9m and is set to fall as claimants retire or die (IB ceased in 2008 and was replaced by Employment and Support Allowance). ESA and IB claimants combined are currently 2.6m.


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