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Thousands With Mental Illness Won’t Receive Benefits in Time for Christmas

  • 30,000 won’t have a chance to get their benefits before Christmas
  • People will miss out on upwards of £100 a week
  • Waiting times of up to 9 months
  • Declines in mental health due to the stress of applying
Thousands suffering with mental health conditions won’t be able to get a tribunal before Christmas. Image: Getty
Thousands suffering with mental health conditions won’t be able to get a tribunal before Christmas. Image: Getty

30,000 people will be without disability benefit this Christmas due to massive administrative backlog.

People with mental health conditions are being forced to wait up to nine months just to get a tribunal.

Tribunal applicants are those who have already been refused disability benefits and are appealing the decision.

Rethink Mental Illness, a charity, says most of these appeals are overturned - they do end up getting the support.

An analysis of Government figures by the group Rethink Mental Illness suggests some will spend the festive period missing out on upwards of £100 a week.

The majority of these appeals result in the initial decision being overturned.

Some have even been awarded disability benefits, but then had to go through the tribunal process again just months afterwards, so they are having to do yearly applications.

The charity estimates more than 15,000 people with mental illness will be waiting for a tribunal hearing to claim Employment Support Allowance, ESA.

ESA is for those who are ill or disabled, and offers financial support for those unable to work, or personalised help so those able to work can do so. You can claim if you’re unemployed, self-employed, or employed.

A further 14,000 will be waiting for a similar hearing for Personal Independence Payment, PIP.

PIP is people who have extra care needs as a result of their disability. There is a daily living component and a mobility component, people may quality for either or both of them. It has replaced the Disability Living Allowance in the Government’s benefits changes.

Around two-third of PIP and ESA claims were overturned in the claimants favour after a tribunal, so the postponing of the tribunals until after Christmas could lose thousands of people the benefits that they are entitled to.

Last month, Sir Ernest Ryder, senour president of tribunals, said the quality of evidence provided by the DWP in benefits cases was so poor that it would be wholly admissible in any other court.

This comes after is was revealed that new Universal Credit claimants won’t receive any benefits until after Christmas because of the government’s six week waiting period.

This has led to spiralling rent arrears and an increase in food bank usage of 17% in areas where Universal Credit has been introduced.

During the Budget debate in Parliament, Jeremy Corbyn criticised the Government’s failing benefits system.

He said, “The Chancellor’s solution to a failing system, which is causing more debt, is to offer a loan. The six week wait, with many waiting even longer, simply becomes a five week wait.

“This system has been run down by £3 billion of cuts to work allowances, and caused evictions because housing benefit isn’t paid directly to the landlord.

“So I say to the Chancellor again, put this system on hold until it is fixed.”

Changes to the benefits system have angered many. Image: Getty
Changes to the benefits system have angered many. Image: Getty

Brian Dow, the director of external affairs at Rethink Mental Illness, said, “Christmas is a time to celebrate, but tens of thousands of people with mental illness will be spending it without money that they should have, and are trapped in a long and stressful appeals process.

The money from these benefits can be a lifeline- it keeps food in the fridge, bills paid, and allows people to leave the house to be part of their community.

“The fact that two thirds of these decisions will be successfully overturned reflects a system that cannot accurately assess and manage mental illness.

“Thousands of people go through a lengthy, stressful, process that can wreak havoc with their mental health, only to come out with an incorrect decision that takes four months to appeal.”

Research also suggests that those who will be waiting until after christmas will have appealed against their original decision an average of five months earlier.

During this waiting period, 38% reported that their mental health has deteriorated due to the stress of the appeals process, with 19% having to get a higher dose of their medication.

As it currently stands, two thirds of people with mental health conditions do not receive the help they need from the NHS, which increases the need for disability benefits, as they are not getting the necessary help to get better.

One person told the charity that they had to wait nine months to get a tribunal hearing, by which point their mental health had significantly deteriorated.

“We need to have a fundamental overhaul of how mental health is assessed. The Government has let too many opportunities pass by, and if it is really serious about creating a better society for people with mental health, this has to be a priority.”

Mental health charities and groups have called for an overhaul of the assessment process for both PIP and ESA, including those with the most severe mental health conditions to be exempt from face-to-face assessments due to the huge negative impact it can have on them.

Rethink Mental Illness has called for all assessors and DWP decision makers to also be trained to have an understanding of mental health conditions, as they currently do not receive adequate training.

The DWP has tried to defend the decision, saying, “Assessments are an important part of PIP and ESA to ensure that people get the right level of support.

“We continuously review our processes to ensure they’re working in the best possible way, including ending ESA reassessments for people with the most severe conditions.”

The research comes after it is estimated that 128,000 children will spend Christmas homeless, as the country is experiencing the a huge increase in child poverty. This has also had negative impacts on the children’s mental health.

To help those struggle with mental health at Christmas, Mind have launched an appeal. You can also donate to Rethink Mental Illness, who carried out the research.

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