Urgent reforms needed to give people with mental health problems fair access to Universal Credit says MMHPI

Urgent reforms needed to give people with mental health problems fair access to Universal Credit according to a new report by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, which examines the difficulties that people with mental health problems face when applying for and accessing benefits.

The report, The benefits assault course, shows that nearly half (47%) of working age people receiving out-of-work benefits in England have a common mental health problem such as depression and anxiety. It warns that people in this position can struggle to navigate the benefits system because of symptoms such as reduced concentration, increased impulsivity and memory problems — challenges which are even more acute for people affected by severe mental health problems.

The report also reveals that these difficulties are being compounded by ‘overly complicated and bureaucratic processes’ in the benefits system, which are causing significant psychological distress for people already struggling with their mental health.

In a survey by the charity of over 450 people with mental health problems who receive benefits, over 94% reported symptoms of anxiety as result of engaging with the benefits system, and nearly half (45%) displayed signs of severe or extreme anxiety.

Commenting on the findings, Helen Undy, Chief Executive of Money and Mental Health, said:

“Accessing the benefits system can be a difficult task for anyone, but if you’re struggling with your mental health it can feel almost impossible. The obstacles that people with mental health problems face at every stage of the system not only cause unnecessary distress, they’re also resulting in people missing out on crucial support they are entitled to, or falling out of the system entirely.

“This urgently needs to change, as it’s ruining lives. The government’s decision to pilot Universal Credit migration before continuing its rollout offers an ideal opportunity to fix these problems. Making the right changes now could make a huge difference to the millions of people across the country with mental health problems trying to navigate the benefits system.”