Sunday, November 14, 2010

Mentally Ill Could Be Left Penniless, Following Welfare Reform White Paper

Paul Jenkins, chief executive of leading mental health charity Rethink, comments:

"Iain Duncan Smith has insisted that no one will lose out from his reforms, but we're not as confident as we don't think the system effectively recognises mental illness. The proposed conditions attached to job seekers allowance will add to the worries of those who already fear they will be wrongly assessed as fit to work under the new benefits test.

"It is now even more essential that benefits assessments really reflect people's ability to work in the long-term. Mental illness affects people differently from day to day, and if someone is wrongly found to be fit for work, and put on Job Seekers Allowance, they could now be forced to do inappropriate work or lose their benefits. Job Centre Plus staff tell us that they don't have mental illness expertise, yet they will decide who to send on these work programmes.

"We are pleased that the new Universal Credit will change the way benefits are reduced once claimants are working. The £7,000 earnings allowance for disabled people is a marked improvement on the current system and will make the transition into work easier, as well as avoiding the perverse situation where people find themselves worse off when they begin employment.

"However, Rethink is disappointed by the White Paper's failure to propose any improvements to carers' allowance, despite its acknowledgement that the benefit is entirely unfit for purpose. Millions of carers need to see a government commitment to better support."

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