More Leniency and Understanding for Vulnerable Adults with Mental Illness on Benefits

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Anyone who has, cares for or knows someone with a mental illness knows that that person cannot viably look after themselves independently day-to-day. Whether it be simply getting out of bed or cooking/feeding themselves unaided, for a person with deteriorating mental health, these menial tasks can be too much to achieve. 

Yet— in order for these vulnerable people to receive the benefits specifically created for them, i.e Employment and Support Allowance, Personal Independence Payments and Universal Credit, they must adhere to certain rules set by DWP, i.e go to appointments and interviews.

However, if these conditions are not met, the benefit is stopped and all money ceases to be paid immediately. This on itself can be a problem to a person with a mental illness and has led to suicide more than once—Fact.

This is where I ask for change and understanding.

A vulnerable adult cannot be expected to live with no money or support simply because they missed an appointment or assessment with the DWP. Yes, you can change the appointment day, but only twice and who can predict how a mentally ill person will be feeling on the day of the assessment? What if that person has severe anxiety and is worried, scared, nervous about the appointment? What if that translates into anger, violence, self-harm? What if you’ve already cancelled one appointment, do you cancel this one too to protect the person from a severe mental crisis and protect the workers they are supposed to see? 

Most who care first hand for someone who is mentally ill will probably answer ‘Yes,’ that they would cancel the appointment as the health and safety of the person they care for should be more important—and of course, the DWP are already aware of the persons health as THAT is why they receive benefits in the first place. 

Unfortunately, this doesn’t constitute as ‘good cause’ for missing the appointment in the eyes of DWP—neither does a psychiatrist’s letter of explanation or a GP’s recommendation of a home visit. 

I am asking for the Decision Makers guidelines to be changed, to be more lenient with relevant evidence and to be more understanding when it comes to mental health. I want a safeguard in place that when these vulnerable people lose their money, they are offered support and help to access other benefits and to make sure they are mentally stable enough to handle the ramifications of the benefit decisions.

I want more understanding that the mentally ill cannot simply get up and attend a strange place at a time set, even with the aid of a carer or support worker. And I want evidence that is sufficient enough to allow the person to receive the benefit in  the first place to be allowed as evidence for ‘good cause’ for missed appointments.

I want the DWP to make sure these people have the correct support in place BEFORE simply discarding their claim with no thoughts as to the consequences. To make sure the most vulnerable, who have no carer or family, are in receipt of some sort of income before they are forgotten about completely. This could be by checking to see if they have applied for another benefit (as you can see that information through your systems) or if they have started work (send out a letter asking for income details).

It’s time to STOP mental health discrimination.