There are few things more obvious than if you are deprived of the means to feed yourself, it’s going to be stressful and more than likely affect your mental health and not in a good way. This Mental Health Awareness Week, the excellent Scottish Association for Mental Health is collecting evidence to present to the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee inquiry into benefit sanctions.
People on benefits can lose up to all of their personal allowances if they are deemed to have not done enough to find work or have missed an appointment or have been sacked for misconduct. The sanctions can last anything from 4 to 156 weeks. Imagine not having money for food for a month? How would you manage and would being hungry and stressed make it more or less likely that you would either find work or be in a position to look for work?
In 2015, the charity Mind showed that there had been a disproportionate use of sanctions on people with poor mental health as The Guardian reported at the time:
Paul Farmer, the chief executive officer of mental health charity Mind said sanctions amongst those on employment support allowance has risen from 1,700 a month to 4,800 a month, adding there had been a disproportionate impact on people on mental health.
He claimed 60% of those on ESA have a mental health problem, yet in only 8% of cases were GPs being contacted as required in guidance to seek their views on the pressing ahead with sanctions.
As if the sanctions themselves aren’t bad enough, DWP officials have imposed them when people have been dealing with tragedy and serious illness.
So this is why SAMH is looking for evidence. They are asking people in Scotland to fill in this survey before next Monday, 21st May. If you have been affected, or know someone who is, please share widely.
If you live in another part of the UK, you can respond to the Committee directly through their survey.
This is an important chance to gather evidence that the Government won’t be able to ignore. Many of you will be working with or otherwise helping people who have been affected by the brutality of the DWP’s sanctions regime. Please encourage them to fill in the surveys so that this influential committee of MPs can take the fight to the Government.
* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings