Benefit cuts bring mental health problems, need lottery help

Wed, 26/02/2014 - 14:03 -- nick

The government's benefit cuts are so damaging to the wellbeing of claimants that the national lottery is funding support for those who suffer mental health problems as a result.

The Big Lottery Fund will support Oxfordshire MIND to provide its Benefits for Better Mental Health (BBMH) project, which has been helping people access benefits since 2008.

The £336,000 grant has been given to help the organisation deal with a big increase in workload since the coalition started its war on benefit claimants.

BBMH's hotline has received 20% more calls over the last 18 months, while MIND's national hotline has seen its traffic double as more and more people are unable to cope under the onslaught.

Benefit changes including the bedroom tax, benefit cap, below-inflation rises and other cuts have seen an unprecedented fall in the incomes of claimants.

The huge increase in the number of sanctions, together with delays to benefit payments, have also contributed to the permanent state of crisis that the unemployed, disabled people and other recipients now live in.

As Big Lottery fund spokeswoman Alison Rowe says: "It may be difficult enough for affected people to navigate through the welfare financial changes and budget accordingly, without having additional mental health problems on top. This targeted service by Oxfordshire Mind will respond to a real need from people who are worried about the transition, and provide informed advice and vital peace of mind."

Although the national lottery is run at arms length from the government it is still likely to be seen as a humiliation that it is necessary to fund services helping thousands of people to recover from its core policies.

The hated work capability assessment (WCA), run by Atos, is blamed for a big increase in stress and worsening mental health problems.

Although it is supposed to differentiate between those who are fit for work and those who aren't, in reality it has been mismanaged and misdelivered to the extent that BBMH claims a 98% success rate when it supports people through appeals.

David Bryceland, BBMH's project manager, believes the WCA is not fit for purpose:

"The assessment itself is flawed because you're asking someone to go in and speak to a complete stranger about their most personal fears.

"They don't want to admit that they haven't washed in five days or that they've spent half their day in the corner of the room because they're so paranoid the police are coming to get them."

MIND has called for the WCA to be abolished.

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