Benefit sanctions undermine mental health and must end, say psychologists

ESA sanctions ranked by disability in the period up to January 2014: Notice that mental illness attracted by far the largest number of sanctions.

The British Psychological Society has called for the suspension of the benefit sanctions system, in a joint response with other leading psychological bodies to a Government consultation.

The call links in with evidence provided by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies.

The organisations have also supported the possibility of a Universal Basic Income that would support incentive-led initiatives to get people back to work.

Sanctions fail to get people back to work and damages their mental health, according to the BPS and other bodies.

They highlight evidence that sanctions, or the threat of sanctions (benefit cuts following a claimant’s failure to comply with jobcentre conditions such as missing an appointment with their work coach) can result in destitution, hardship, widespread anxiety and feelings of disempowerment.

“Whilst the sanctions process is undermining mental health and wellbeing – there is no clear evidence of pay off in terms of increased employment,” the organisations say in their response.

“We reiterate our call on the Government to address these concerns and suspend the use of sanctions subject to the outcomes of an independent review of the links between the sanctions regime and the mental health and wellbeing of individuals.

“We also encourage the Government to consider the promotion of the use of incentives for individuals rather than punitive measures to encourage job uptake.

“We could provide both academic and practitioner psychological literature which could make a major contribution to informing evidence-based policy development in this area.

“The Government should also play close attention to the trials of “citizen’s income” (also known as basic income) around the world, which if demonstrated to be effective may potentially provide a template for a benefits system with a clearer incentive structure to work without the psychologically and materially damaging elements of conditionality and sanctions.”

The call came in a joint response to the Government’s consultation, ‘Improving Lives’, from the British Psychological Society, the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy, the British Psychoanalytic Council, the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies and the UK Council for Psychotherapy.

Findings from the National Audit Office  show that there is limited evidence the sanctions system actually works, or is cost effective.

Source: British Psychological Society calls for the Government to suspend its benefits sanctions system | Benefit tales

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8 thoughts on “Benefit sanctions undermine mental health and must end, say psychologists

  1. John Spencer-Davis

    The only problem I have with this joint response is that the writers seem to assume good faith on the part of the Government and that all unpleasant consequences flowing from present policies are “unintended”.

    I disagree. The response rather begs the question of why its obviously common sense recommendations are not in place already. In my opinion, the administration mindset is to force people off benefits and/or back into any work they can find, no matter how unpleasant, via harrying and punitive measures, not to entice them back via a person-centred approach and making work more attractive. As such, appeals to reason and conscience are hardly likely to have any effect.

    John Spencer-Davis (BACP member)

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      I agree.
      But that means appeals to reason and conscience must still be made, to show that they are being ignored.

  2. joanna

    Incentives! Really?
    How can a person who cannot work, possibly do so even with an incentive?
    The system Should Not be either punitive or with incentives, people Need trust, to know their own strengths.

    Before that is even considered we need services for the people and run by the people! This government Need to Stop using benefits as a weapon to beat people with and take back the power from the DWP!!!

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      The incentives would be for people who can work – with help, or only for short periods every day.

    1. Justin

      same here, however they lost at tribunal and are now seeing what happens when you are medically incompetent or motivated by greed

  3. Justin

    they missed a part on the chart esa sanctions caused by lying or unfit assessors and adequately useless decision makers that believe there lies

Comments are closed.