Mental health charity, Mind, have expressed ‘extreme concern’ following the revelation that sanctioned jobseekers with mental illness are not classed as ‘vulnerable’ by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
DWP guidance on hardship payments for sanctioned Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) claimants says a person will only be a member of a vulnerable group if they have an accompanying physical health problem.
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.”
Tom Pollard from Mind said they were seeking clarity from the DWP as to why people with mental health problems who have had their benefits stopped aren’t considered to be vulnerable in this instance.
The use of sanctioning, where a claimants money is stopped for between four weeks and three years, has become widespread since the government toughened the rules in 2012.
This week the Guardian revealed that one in six jobseekers face having their benefits cut off each year.
It is thought around 23% of jobseekers suffer with mental health conditions.
However, it is unclear how many mentally ill JSA claimants are being sanctioned as DWP do not have any data showing this.
A DWP spokesman said: “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.”
They declined to add anything further following the comments from Mind.