In response to the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement announcement, which lays out the UK government’s financial priorities including to welfare reform, McPin’s research director and co-founder, Vanessa Pinfold says:
The Government has demonstrated, through the Autumn Statement and Back to Work Plan, that our nation’s mental health is not a priority. McPin knows that the announcement made last week will be deeply distressing to many in our network and communities across the UK.
It will have direct consequences for thousands of people – through stress and worry about loss of benefits and the deeply problematic challenge of wanting to work and trying to find appropriate work, when none is available.
The Government wants people receiving long term disability benefits to look for paid employment and re-enter the workplace. Stark changes to the way people will be assessed to be well enough for work (the Work Capability Assessment) are intended to reflect, in part, the supposed availability of home working after the Covid pandemic.
Any welfare approach underpinned by conditionality and sanctions is going to have detrimental impacts on people’s mental health, many of whom live in poverty. We believe this to be a simplistic view of serious mental health issues and other disabilities. For example, it does not address the ongoing discrimination and lack of accessibility that excludes many disabled people from jobs.
We welcome a focus on employment support, including the commitment to expand Individual Placement and Support (which we have reviewed previously) but this is not a whole-population solution. The reason we have rising numbers of people with poor mental health needs tackling at a systems, community and individual level.
People currently receiving benefits could lose access to full support if they haven’t taken certain steps around employment. We are firmly against punitive measures to bring people into the workplace.
A key social determinant of mental health is financial stability. Threatening people or forcing them into unsuitable work risks making people more unwell.
The Government’s lack of understanding around the interlinked nature of poverty and disability is extremely concerning. We would urge it to reconsider these damaging plans.
Other organisations have also issued statements with analysis. McPin is aligned on the inappropriate strategy being adopted towards welfare reform:
- Centre for Society and mental health: Back to Work or Back against the Wall: responding to the 2023 Autumn Statement | Feature from King’s College London
- Centre for Mental health: Today’s Autumn Statement is a missed opportunity to prioritise the nation’s mental health – Centre for Mental Health
- Mind: Mind responds to the Autumn Statement
We would encourage anyone who is experiencing distress brought on by these announcements to seek support via the Samaritans.