Home Featured News Sanctioned Jobseekers With Mental Health Problems Are Not 'Vulnerable', Says DWP

Sanctioned Jobseekers With Mental Health Problems Are Not ‘Vulnerable’, Says DWP

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By Natalie Leal for Welfare Weekly.

Sanctioned Jobseekers with mental health problems are not classed as ‘vulnerable’ unless they have an accompanying physical health problem, according to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Use of the controversial sanctions regime, which sees claimants money cut or stopped for up to three years, has rocketed since stricter rules were introduced by the government.

In 2013-14 record numbers of sanctions were imposed, with nearly one in six jobseekers affected, and many fear those with mental health problems are often the hardest hit.

When a claimant has their Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) reduced or stopped they can apply for a hardship payment – up to 60% of their JSA. This can go some way to cover the cost of food and bills while they have no other means of support. Those classed as ‘vulnerable’ can normally claim this vital support immediately, but others may have to wait at least two weeks.

However, those JSA claimants with even the most serious mental health illnesses are not considered vulnerable by DWP; they have to instead wait and go through what could become a lengthy application process.

DWP guidance on hardship payments states: “Requests for hardship payments may be made by people who say they have a mental condition. A person will only be a member of a vulnerable group if the condition causes limitation in functional capacity because of a physical impairment.”

It continues: “It is extremely rare for a mental condition to produce a physical impairment that limits or restricts functional capacity but it can happen.”

For decision makers in any doubt, the guidance goes on to clarify all mental illnesses “without physical impairment”:

  • Affective disorder
  • Agoraphobia
  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar Affective disorder
  • Bulimia nervosa
  • Depression
  • Dissociative disorders
  • Nervous Debility
  • Neurasthenia
  • Neurosis
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Panic attacks
  • Paranoia
  • Phobias
  • Phobic anxiety
  • Psychoneurosis
  • Psychosis
  • Schizophrenia

While those suffering from the most severe mental illnesses are likely to receive Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), it is estimated that 23% of JSA claimants have a mental health condition.

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.

A DWP spokesman said they have a well-established system of hardship provision for claimants who are sanctioned.

“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.

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  1. This article doesn’t tell the whole story. When deciding whether a person is in a vulnerable group (and therefore immediately entitled to hardship payments when sanctioned) the question of having a physical impairment is only one of several tests. There is a flowchart in the Decision Maker’s Guide which says that if there is no physical impairment the next test is whether the person’s health will decline more than that of a healthy person over 2 weeks. If so they will be classed as in a vulnerable group. I would think that many people with mental conditions will satisfy that test.

    • …IN THEORY.

      In practice, the “Decision Maker’s Guide” is superceded by orders from on high saying “fail everyone you possibly can; sanction anyone you can make an excuse to”.

  2. I am so angry with David Cameron’s and Tories take on mental health. These medicals which are carried out should be done by MH drs. I know I am being blunt but Mr. Cameron would not have liked his ill son, who had a physical disability to have been diagnosed by a MH Dr.! Also I believe only 10% of ordinary drs learn about mental health at their own discretion. It is not mandatory. So how can these health practitioners know anything at all about how distressing it can be. I think a very noisy demonstration should be held outside no.10.

  3. I have had enough of this crap from the DWP. I really would like people who do read this to gather evidence for the ICC as the real culprits for the thousands of dead because of the the policies need to be held to account.

  4. Just another excuse so they can sanction you,and save the government money,to most Joke center plus,sorry job center plus staff,you are nothing more than a NINO

  5. There is nothing wrong with disabled people having jobs. It is actually quite vile that everyone here things “disability” means the person should be written off forever.

    • “Everyone”. Ah, your PC bigotry. When in fact no poster has said anything of the sort.

      You’re the one writing off people, who can’t actually work, as the JobCenter will (rightly) tell them there’s no way they can sign on because they are not fit for work.

      They can go die in the street, and you can be vile and happy as you ignore mental issues.

    • Averagejob,

      Your find if you actually make an effort instead of worthless and baseless assumptions that the major reason why so many ill and disabled people are on benefits is because employers don’t want to hire them.
      Lets also not forget, no one can simply walk into the DWP and say “Im to ill to work, to disabled to work even under the then labour government. Im sorry to shatter this dream bubble you have cocooned yourself in but only a doctor can state someone cant work.

  6. Mental conditions hardly ever cause physical symptoms? As a person with brain damage that’s news to me! More evidence this lot are incompetent. Oh no…when you’re 5stone with anorexia or Motor Neuron disease you don’t lose function… MUCH!

  7. It’s sickening that the people working at the DWP would sanction anyone suffering from any one of the conditions on that list. How can someone with agoraphobia, panic attacks or psychosis, and so on, reasonably be expected to complete work related activity when they might not even be able to leave their homes, speak to other people, experience delusions or are in distress and mental crisis? The nature of mental illness creates vulnerability and an inability to cope with stress. The DWP then makes a deliberate decision to make them destitute and has the audacity to say these conditions do not make someone vulnerable! Staggering! Their actions are incomprehensible to anyone with an ounce of humanity and I can quite understand that many sufferers will be pushed right over the edge.

    • You’re right. And death is the result. ASa person on ESAwhose close family member comitted suicide I feel betrayed. After what they did 2 years ago they at least had the guts to admit taht he must have been ill. Now….?

  8. I was on benefits in the 80’s. I have a mild natural tendency to get depressed, and I am horrified by the sanctions regime because I know what it could have done to me. If my money had been cut off, even “just” for four weeks I don’t know how I would have coped: maybe friends would have helped me out a bit, but most of my friends had no money either, maybe family, but I could see me not eating and getting into a really bad physical and mental state. At that stage it is not unusual for people to get sanctioned again: they are not fully well or functioning properly and can’t cope with the demands that the jobcentre places on them.
    If I had been sanctioned a second time when I was on a downer, it could easily have tipped me over the edge. I would have ended up in a state where I couldn’t cope and had to be hospitalised.
    If it had happened when I was not on a downer I would have looked at ways of getting money. I lived in an unemployment blackspot where getting a job was not an option, so all the money-raisers I would be considering would have been illegal, or at least in the black economy. I don’t really know how they would have worked out. It would probably have stopped me becoming a civil servant and remaining an employed taxpayer for much of my adult life, which is what in fact did happen to me after I had spent a couple of years on benefits.

  9. ive been in this place . and its frighting . its so wrong . very hard for some people to see whats going on underneath, and very hard to explain how you feel .its so wrong. you can not see the internal scars and how you got them . i feel for anyone going through this .

    i got treated like scum. by a dr, i had to see and prove i was ill ..

  10. So Anorexia Nervosa – a mental condition with physical symptoms – is not considered to have a physical impairment? :/

  11. Hmmm, so hallucinations, delusions, self harming and suicide which are all to common factors aren’t cause enough to warrant a classification of vulnerable ?
    What’s next, your not terminally ill until your dead.

    • Until? Ha. Let’s wait for the DWP figures, shall we – I’m expecting a zero and 10 pages of redefinition of death.

  12. Their definitions define the level of their ignorance & stupidity .If this is not the case then It is clearly an agenda to promote despair in the vulnerable with intent to manipulate these victims into self harm or suicide by means of deliberate denial of support .As such this is clearly calculated and deliberate so as such criminal intent to harm or kill , ie :Genocide .

  13. My best friend fir 34 years developed a mental health problem in the last 6 years of her life. No-one took her seriously apart from me and my daughters. She tried to take her own life several times and no-one believed she would take her life except me. I told her doctors that she was working her way up to the end ‘event’ they didn’t believe me. One day she jumped off a multi-story car park – she was afraid of heights. She died a week later. No-one from her mental health team would speak to me after she died apart from her newest helper who re-homed her cat. So yes they are vulnerable. They are also a danger to others because they are un-predictable. Heart broken.

    • That is so sad. My condolences for your loss. It is heartbreaking, that these things are happening in this country. May she rest in peace. God bless xxxx

    • I’m so sorry. It is so hard to hear these lies when you have been through the suicide of a family member or friend. It is painful enough. We lost my nephew to suicide thanks to bipolar but it wasthe DWP who finished him off. God bless you.

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