Jobseekers with mental illness not classed as “vulnerable”

Infomation from the Department of Work and Pensions reveals that sanctioned jobseekers with a mental health problem will not be classed as “vulnerable” unless they have an accompanying physical illness.

Sanctioning of jobseekers has been in use since 2012, and involves stopping claimants’ Jobseekers Allowance for between four weeks and three years. These sanctions cannot be imposed on people classed as “vulnerable”.

Around 23% of jobseekers have a mental health condition. It is estimated that 1 in 4 people will suffer from a mental health condition at some point in their lives. The Guardian recently revealed that one in six claimants face having their benefits stopped each year.

Mental health charity Mind are “extremely concerned” by the classifications and are seeking clarification from the Department of Work and Pensions as to why those suffering from mental health will not be classed as vulnerable. Tom Pollard, Policy and Campaigns Manager at Mind said:

“We are extremely concerned that this guidance does not consider people with mental health problems to be vulnerable compared to those who are living with physical health problems.

“Making such a distinction could result in further financial difficulties for those affected by mental health problems, in addition to the distress caused by being sanctioned in the first place.”

The DWP declined to comment regarding concerns raised by Mind but previously stated:

“We absolutely recognise mental health conditions through the benefit system, with mental health champions and other support for individuals to find work through Jobcentre Plus.

“As taxpayers would expect, the vast majority of those on benefits do the right thing by looking for work, however the small minority who refuse to do so, or take up a job, risk a reduction to their benefits.”

With funding to NHS services such as child mental health services being cut and long waiting lists for treatments such as counselling and CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), these sanctions cause further difficulty for people struggling with mental health issues, particularly those who are on low incomes or are unemployed.

[Clare Patterson – @clurrpatterson]

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