People with mental health problems form the largest cohort of Employment and Support Allowance claimants, but this does not mean they would naturally attract more benefit sanctions.
Sanctions are imposed when people break the rules for benefit claims that are imposed by the Department for Work and Pensions.
This finding suggests that Conservative ministers have deliberately made the benefit system increasingly difficult for people with mental health problems to navigate – in order to push them into a sanction and off benefit.
Charities have warned that the Conservatives are trying to push people with mental health problems into “inappropriate” activities, resulting in extra anxiety.
This leads to the question of whether the system, as the Tories have perverted it, causes an increase in mental health problems – the very opposite of what the system was set up to do.
The Conservative Government has rejected calls for a review of the sanctions regime, adding fuel to claims that ministers have been failing in their duty of care.
A legal case has already begun against former DWP ministers in Scotland, where the law directly criminalises such behaviour.
The DWP is desperately claiming that sanctions are only used as a last resort and the number of sanctions has fallen by 20 per cent in the last year.
If true, then it only shows the increasing extent to which people with mental health problems are being victimised.
The number of benefit sanctions imposed on people with mental health problems has increased by over 600 per cent over the last four years, Department for Work and Pensions statistics show.
A joint analysis of the figures by the Independent and the mental health charity Mind found that 19,259 people with such conditions had their benefits stopped under sanction in 2014-15 compared to just 2,507 in 2011-12 – a 668 per cent rise.
The finding comes weeks after ministers rejected a call to investigate whether such sanctions – which involve stopping a person’s disability benefit income for weeks at a time to enforce compliance – are damaging to mental health.
The ramping up of the policy goes against the advice of mental health charities, who have previously warned that its aggressive approach worsens mental health problems and makes it harder for people to return to work.
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