People who suffer with chronic mental health problems are more than twice as likely to be refused benefits than other claimants, according to a new study by York University.
Researchers found that mentally ill claimants are 2.4 times more likely than claimants with non-psychiatric conditions to lose benefits when asked to reapply for Personel Independence Payments, which has replaced Disability Living Allowance for 16 to 65 year-olds.
The study shows that those with the most severe mental health problems face losing around £141.10 per week, when migrated from DLA to PIP, with charities and others warning the denial of benefits could worsen people’s and mental health and push them further way from work.
The study also found that claimants with common mental health conditions like depression and anxiety were also routinely denied PIP, whilst claimants with physical disabilities fared much better when applying for the new disability benefit.
According to York University, only 16.6% of benefit assessors have a clinical mental health background.
Lead author of the study Katie Pybus said: “As far as we are aware, this is the first academic study to compare Personal Independence Payment eligibility assessment outcomes by health condition for existing Disability Living Allowance claimants.
“Our intention is not to comment on the acceptability of eligibility assessment outcomes for claimants with the other health conditions included in the analysis, but rather to highlight areas of potential inequality that may need to be addressed to ensure the benefits system values mental health equally with physical health.”
Professor Wendy Burn, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “We can provide the best treatment in the world for our patients but if they can’t afford accommodation, heating or food this will be ineffective.
“It is essential that clinicians know how to support their patients in applying for the benefits they are entitled to.”
Ayaz Manji, the senior policy and campaigns officer at the mental health charity Mind, said the findings of the study are “hugely concerning”, whilst adding that the charity “hear every day from the people we support, many of whom are being told they are no longer eligible for certain benefits”.
Dr Jed Boardman, a spokesman for the Royal College of Psychiatrists and an expert on welfare and mental health, added: “A benefits system that discriminates against people with mental ill health should not be tolerated.
“The push for parity [of esteem] between physical and mental health in the health service must be extended to the welfare system to give people the support they need and the best chance of recovery.”