Austerity issues: ongoing challenges to the UK government

Report and parliamentary meeting: Money and Mental Health Policy Institute

On 4th March, the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute launched a report about particular difficulties which people with mental health diagnoses/in mental distress have when trying to navigate the benefits system. The report is entitled The Benefits Assault Course. Making the UK Benefits System More Accessible for People with Mental Health Problems. It can be found online here.

An important strength of the report is that it relates specifically to people with lived experience of mental distress/emotional trauma and to particular hurdles for us with the benefits system. It also addresses these hurdles in detail. The report is less strong in the sense that a purely clinical model is utilised, that, rather surprisingly, it does not draw on the initial statement from Philip Alston, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights and that improvements to the current benefit system are suggested rather than anything more fundamental.

To maximise the impact of the report, it was launched at a meeting with Norman Lamb, the former Health Minister and a Mental Health Advisory Board member, and Sarah Newton, the then Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and Work. The meeting was for people working in the field and other stakeholders. I also attended the meeting, though there seemed to be little, if any representation of others with lived experience, except on the panel for the meeting. A disadvantage was that, once Norman Lamb and Sarah Newton had spoken, they had to leave because of Brexit issues. It would have been good, for instance, to have the opportunity to challenge Sarah Newton’s view that the strength of PIP is that it is about parity of esteem and of Universal Credit that it is ‘completely person-centred’! Nonetheless, there were some useful discussions during the second half of the meeting related to major continuing hurdles in the benefits system.