Unemployed people with mental health conditions are more likely to have their benefits stopped than supported into work, damning figures show.
Figures obtained by the mental health charity Mind, reveal that three-times more people with mental health problems were sanctioned by the DWP last year than those who found a job.
The damning figures, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, show that 19,259 sanctions were imposed on mentally ill people last year, while only 6,340 successfully moved into employment.
There are around 250,000 people in receipt of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) because of mental health problems.
Sanctions can be imposed when a job seeker fails to participate in work-related activities, such as missing appointments. They can last from anything between a few weeks to three years and have been blamed for soaring food bank demand. Around half of benefit sanctions are overturned following on appeal.
Mind says people with mental health problems often find it difficult to participate in these activities, or understand what is required of them in order to continue receiving benefits.
According to the charity, there is very little evidence to suggest that benefit sanctions encourage unemployed people into work.
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind said: “It is perverse that people with mental health problems are more likely to have their benefits stopped than they are to be supported into employment.
“We have long been warning the Government that a punitive approach towards people who are out of work because of their health or disability is not only ineffective but is causing a great deal of distress.”
“These data provide further evidence that the DWP should have accepted the suggestion of a cross-party committee of MPs to commission an independent review of how sanctions are used.
“By continuing to refuse to listen to the numerous expert voices calling for a fundamental rethink of the use of sanctions, the Government is not only undermining its ambition of helping a million more disabled people into work, but is also failing its duty of care for the health and wellbeing of hundreds of thousands of people with mental health problems.”
“We already know that the Work Programme has helped fewer than 1 in 10 people with mental health problems into employment. In fact, it’s counterproductive, as the pressure people are being put under, and the anxiety caused by the threat of sanctions, is making people more unwell and less able to work.
“83 per cent of our survey respondents said that being on the Work Programme made their mental health worse or much worse. Even the threat of stopping someone’s financial support is enough to cause a great deal of undue stress and anxiety for people with mental health problems.”
Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, is to trial a sanctions warning scheme. The scheme allows claimants 14 days to explain infringements before benefits are docked.