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Mind comments on government plans for welfare reform

27th May 2010

Today the new government has outlined plans to get five million people off benefits and into work, including millions of people who are currently claiming Employment and Support Allowance or the old Incapacity Benefit for health problems and disabilities. In response, Mind’s Chief Executive Paul Farmer said:

“The new government has inherited both a benefits system that doesn’t work and a benefits test that doesn’t work for people with mental health problems. A crucial part of any fair and smooth running welfare system is being able to accurately assess whether people are well enough to work or not, but the current test is not up to the job of measuring whether people with mental health problems are fit for work. We urge our new government to review the benefit assessment before rolling it out to millions more claimants, so that people aren’t deprived of their benefit and forced to look for work they can’t do.

“Work can be good for mental health, but only when it is suited to the individual. The government has proposed to sanction anyone turning down ‘reasonable offers of employment’, but people should not be forced to accept work that risks damaging their mental health, putting them back on benefits and back at square one. Sanctioning people who can’t secure an appropriate job misses the point about why they are locked out of work in the first place.

“People with mental health problems want to work when they are able, but we live in a society where two thirds of employers are unwilling to offer them a job. Getting a job isn’t just the responsibility of the job seeker – employers also need to play their part. Until we tackle stigma and discrimination in our workplaces, people with mental health problems will struggle to find work, whatever stick the welfare system beats them with.

“We hope the government takes this opportunity to create a fair and flexible welfare system that assesses people accurately and gives them the help they need to get fit and ready for a job.”

 

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