UK

DWP's Priti Patel Rules Out Looking In To Whether Benefit Sanctions Damage Mental Health

02/11/2015 21:53 GMT | Updated 02/11/2015 21:59 GMT
LEON NEAL via Getty Images
British Employment Minister Priti Patel (L) and British Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith leave the first weekly cabinet meeting in Downing Street, central London, on May 12, 2015 following the May 7 general election. British Prime Minister David Cameron unveiled his new cabinet after an unexpected election victory that gave his Conservative party an outright majority in parliament for the first time in nearly 20 years. AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL (Photo credit should read LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)

The Government on Monday refused to investigate the effects of benefit cuts to thousands of people's mental health.

Department for Work and Pensions minister Priti Patel, who earlier this year sparked outrage for suggesting a reintroduction of Britain's death penalty, claimed any examination of temporary sanctions' effects would be "misleading" in isolation and should not be investigated.

“There are many factors affecting an individual’s mental health," she told MPs on Monday, adding: "To assess the effect of sanctions in isolation of all other factors would be misleading.

“There are a number of checks built into the system to support all claimants including those with mental health concerns.”

Despite being urged to launch a review by the SNP's Callum McCaig, Patel claimed there was no evidence that sanctions notably affected people with mental health problems - an allegation that runs contrary to independent research.

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Sanctions do have an effect on claimants' mental health, previous research has said

In January, a consortium of churches published their own report which found more than 100 people per day with mental health problems were being subject to sanctions - a higher rate among those with physical ailments.

Some 83 per cent of Work Programme participants with mental health issues surveyed said the scheme’s “support” had only made their mental health problems worse.

The Methodist Church, Church of Scotland, Church in Wales and mental health charity Mind all then piled in to rebuke the Government, the former's policy advisor commenting: "The fact that this system punishes people for the symptoms of their illness is a clear and worrying sign that it is fundamentally flawed."

But Patel insisted jobcentre staff were properly trained to deal with welfare recipients' mental health problems.

“Our staff are trained to support claimants with mental health conditions … claimants are only asked to meet reasonable requirements, taking into account their circumstances, their capability, and their mental health services,” she said today.

“There is no evidence to suggest that mental health claimants are being sanctioned more than anyone else.”

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