Responding to the Chancellor’s autumn statement announcement, Andy Bell, chief executive of Centre for Mental Health, said: “Today’s autumn statement indicates that the Government is not prioritising the nation’s mental health”.
“Increases in universal credit rates, local housing allowance, the minimum wage and the state pension are welcome in the face of rising poverty. We know mental ill-health and poverty are inextricably linked, and therefore that any easing of financial pressures could have a positive impact on people’s mental health. However we are still concerned that, even with such a rise, benefits remain historically low and don’t allow people to have a good basic standard of living.
“We warmly welcome Government commitments to expand Individual Placement and Support services for people with mental health difficulties who want to find meaningful paid employment. The research evidence is clear that IPS consistently outperforms other employment support models. And we know that paid employment can, when combined with appropriate support, boost people’s mental health and standard of living.
“What is deeply worrying, however, is the Government’s plan to simultaneously introduce more punitive and conditional measures around employment, such as mandatory work placements and the dangerous threat of stopping people’s benefits if they do not ‘engage’. We know that the threat of sanctions is counter-productive. They risk damaging people’s mental health further, which in turn makes it harder for people to secure and sustain suitable work. Threatening to stop someone’s benefits or coercing them into unsuitable work is not conducive to unlocking their potential.
“The Government’s rhetoric around these social security reforms is divisive, derogatory, and decidedly lacking in compassion. We call on the Government to offer a positive vision for how people can fulfil their potential, without the shadows of sanctions and stigma.”