Reposted from the Telegraph
As if the Tories haven’t damaged peoples mental health enough with their flawed policies, now we have this … they really don’t give a sh*t do they.
Hundreds of thousands of benefit claimants face being stripped of their state allowances if they refuse to undergo treatment for anxiety and depression, under radical plans being drawn up by ministers.
Existing welfare rules mean it is not possible to require claimants to have treatment, such as therapy or counselling, as a condition of receiving sickness benefits.
Senior ministers now believe the rules should be reviewed in order to reduce the “huge” numbers of people who are declared unfit for work due to mental health problems.
The first moves towards potential reform are expected in a series of pilot schemes to be launched within weeks.
The trials, jointly designed by the Department of Health and the Department for Work and Pensions, will test ways of combining treatment for mental health problems with support to find work.
According to the government, 46 per cent of benefit claimants receiving Employment and Support Allowance, the main benefit for ill and disabled people, have mental health problems.
This means that the proposal to enforce treatment could apply to an estimated 260,000 claimants, who receive up to £101 per week each in ESA.
Estimates based on government figures suggest the state spends up to £1.4 billion a year – more than £3.5 million per day – on ESA for these claimants with mental health issues.
The reforms however, would apply only to those claimants judged to be capable of some work in future.
Those who are judged to be incapable of work due to the severity of their conditions would not be targeted under the plans.
Tory ministers hope to persuade senior Liberal Democrats to back the idea of mandating treatment for benefit claimants with common mental health problems.
The proposal will raise ethical questions about whether the state should have the power to force patients to undergo treatment.
It could lead to a fresh row with campaigners and charities who have claimed that the coalition’s welfare reforms already target vulnerable people with poor mental and physical health.
Conservatives could include the proposal for mandatory treatments in the party manifesto next year as part of the next phase of reforms to the welfare state.
A senior government source said “a huge number” of claimants on ESA who cannot work have treatable mental health issues such as “depression and anxiety”.
“We know that depression and anxiety are treatable conditions. Cognitive behavioural therapies work and they get people stable again but you can’t mandate people to take that treatment,” the source said.
“But there are loads of people who claim ESA who undergo no treatment whatsoever. It is bizarre. This is a real problem because we want people to get better.
“These are areas we need to explore. The taxpayer has committed a lot of money but the idea was never to sustain them for years and years on benefit. We think it’s time for a rethink.
“At some point something has to be done. Right now it’s an open ended contract.”
The source suggested that successful treatments could reduce the numbers of people with mental health issues claiming the benefits by up to 90 per cent.
Benefit claimants receiving ESA, are typically paid up to £101 per week if they are deemed potentially capable of work and are placed in the so-called “work-related activity group” of welfare recipients.
If they fail to abide by conditions such attending work-focused interviews, their ESA payments can be reduced as a sanction. No conditions are currently applied requiring claimants to undergo treatment for health problems.
One trial began last month, looking at combining “talking therapies” with employment support. Four jobcentres are taking part.
The intention of the scheme is to give benefit claimants early access to experts who can help them prepare for work while they are receiving treatment for mental health issues.
Three further trials being launched this summer are intended to test different ways of linking mental health services with support for benefit claimants seeking work.
One of these schemes is designed to analyse effectiveness of “group work” to help build the “resilience” of individuals who are out of work and suffering with poor mental health.
An other trial will see whether better results can be achieved by hiring specialist private organisations outside the NHS and welfare system to take control of providing a combination of psychological and employment support to claimants.
A final pilot scheme will assess the effectiveness of offering online tests and therapies at improving individuals’ health and job prospects.
Norman Lamb, the Lib Dem health minister, said mandating mental health treatment for benefit claimaints would not work and was “not a sensible idea”.
“The idea that you frogmarch someone into therapy with the threat of a loss of benefits simply won’t work,” he said. “It is not a question of whether tough love is a good concept.
“You actually need someone to go into therapy willingly.”