About a quarter of people on Jobseeker’s Allowance received at least one sanction between 2010 and 2015 [Image: Rex].

Now you can see why the Tories didn’t want to include mental health problems as qualifiers for sickness and disability benefits – it would have undone all their careful work to deprive jobseekers of the money they need to survive!

The Conservative plan is – and always has been – to drive people with mental health problems to suicide. That’s why they included a question practically driving benefit claimants to it in the assessments for ESA and PIP.

So you see the progression: A jobless person signs on at the Job Centre. They are given a ridiculous series of conditions for receipt of their benefit, and a breach of any of those conditions will be used to justify a sanction – denying them their benefit for a period of time.

This puts the jobseeker under immense pressure because Department for Work and Pensions employees use underhand techniques to justify imposing these sanctions. This is from two years ago:

DWP staff have deliberately withheld hardship payments from people who have had their benefits sanctioned.

They failed to offer flexible funds that should be available for clothes or a bus fare if that is needed to help a jobseeker secure employment (surely a contradiction in terms – DWP staff are supposed to help people into work).

They received “brownie points for cruelty”.

This is why jobseekers are suffering mental health problems. They are under constant pressure from the government department that should be supporting them, are in constant danger of losing the benefit money they need if they are to pay their bills, and are therefore constantly worried that they will not be able to pay the rent and could lose their homes – or that they will not be able to heat that home or feed themselves.

Then, when they claim ESA or PIP on the grounds that their mental health has declined, the assessor demands to know why they haven’t committed suicide.

For many people – who started out in perfectly good mental health – this could be the last straw.

The government pushes them into taking their own lives.

Rates of severe anxiety and depression among unemployed people have soared by more than 50 per cent in the last four years as the impact of “harsh” austerity policies take their toll, The Independent can reveal.

The UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) said the Government’s reforms of welfare payments were to blame for the rise, as benefit cuts and sanctions “are having a toxic impact on mental health”.

New analysis of data from NHS surveys of GP patients shows that in March 2017, 15.2 per cent of unemployed people said they suffered from severe or extreme anxiety or depression.

This figure has increased steadily from 10.1 per cent in June 2013, and marks a sharper jump than rates of the conditions among the general population, which rose 20 per cent over the same period, from 3.4 per cent of people to 4.1 per cent.

“The devastating impact of the benefits cap for families with children, the freezing of benefits at a time of inflation, and the cutting of benefits for the disabled are putting claimants under terrible mental and financial strain,” said Janet Weisz, the UKCP’s chief executive.

“The constant threat of benefit sanctions only adds to the pressure.”

(Source: Government welfare cuts blamed for 50% surge in mental health issues among unemployed)

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