[typography font=”Cardo” size=”24″ size_format=”px” color=”#000000″][dropcap]T[/dropcap][/typography]here is a very real possibility that those who claim benefits and refuse treatment for mental health issues such as depression or anxiety could face having their benefits cut.
This move is being made due to the latest plans that are being drawn up by ministers and there are already pilot schemes taking place job centres in Durham and Tees Valley, Surrey and Sussex, Black Country and Midland Shires.
The pilot schemes are a combination of mental health treatment being given alongside job support. However, the latest announcement is that there is a potential for making it mandatory for those who make a claim and have mental health problems that are can benefit from medical attention are to receive treatment.
It is thought that there are hundreds of thousands of ESA claimants who could be affected by the reforms. The ESA — also known as the Employment and Support Allowance — is the main form of benefits for those who are ill and/or disabled. There is currently an estimated 260,000 claimants receiving up to £101 a week, which equates to around £1.4 billion of money provided by tax payers, spent on providing ESA to those who claim the benefits because of mental health problems.
Anyone who is looking into claiming ESA currently has to undergo a series of mandatory tests, given by a doctor or healthcare professional. These are to see if the claimant is fit enough to work, or if they are expected to be able to in the future. However, under the new pilot schemes, a mental health assessment will be included in the examination and there will be an introduction of job support earlier than there is currently. The trials are looking at if it is worth combining talking therapies with job support, and just how effective it is.
The Department for Work and Pensions — also known as the DWP — has been quoted as saying that they would not make the treatment mandatory as part of the pilot schemes, but that the concept does remain as an idea for the future.
It is the opinion of a senior source within the government is that it is “bizarre” that there is such a high number of ESA claimants who have mental health conditions that could be treated, yet they receive no medical assistance. They said [quote]These are areas we need to explore. The taxpayer has committed a lot of money but the idea was never to sustain them for years and years on benefit. We think it’s time for a rethink. At some point something has to be done. Right now it’s an open ended contract.[/quote]