Radical reform of benefits assessments for those with mental health problems essential, says Mind

Wed,15 March 2023
News Benefits
Getting the right benefits can help those of us with a mental health problem to live with independence and dignity. This requires fair and accurate benefits assessments. But right now, that’s not what we have.

In a new research report, Mind outlines what changes the Government needs to make to the benefits assessments system.

As a result, it sets out the case for people with experience of the benefits system being at the heart of how to improve it.

It says that the Government should:

Create a new commission – one that is led by Disabled people. To put forward reforms to the structure and criteria of benefits assessments.

Establish an independent regulator for the benefits system. To hold the UK government to account, protect the rights of Disabled people, and enforce improved assessments.

Mind said: “In this research, people told us the benefits assessment process can feel like ‘being put on trial’. People feel mistrusted and judged. As if they were trying to get out of working, despite wishing they were well enough to work. Many said that their mental health got worse as a result.

The stories we heard showed that people with mental health problems are not treated with dignity and respect. This needs to change.”

The research also found that:

  • There’s still a lack of understanding of mental health problems throughout the benefits assessments system.
  • People felt that the system tries to catch them out, rather than support them.
  • People felt confused, angry and retraumatised when trying to navigate their assessment.

Poll findings showed:

Almost 1 in 2 people (48%) did not agree with the outcome of their PIP assessment.

More than 1 in 3 (35%) did not agree with the outcome of their assessment for Employment and Support Allowance or Universal Credit.

Workshop participants told how they felt benefits assessments could be improved:

People should be able to choose their assessment method and time. Some people may struggle to attend a face-to-face assessment, whilst others may not be able to explain their situation properly over the phone.

Assessment questions and criteria need to reflect the reality of mental health problems, including ones which account for fluctuations in people’s mental health over time and which assess how work can affect people’s mental health.

Fewer assessments should be carried out, and the length between reassessments should also be extended to reduce the stress of repeatedly going through the same process.

Assessors should be required to have a mental health qualification or training when dealing with benefit claims that are based on mental health problems.

Assessments should be automatically recorded and provided to the person making the application. Assessors’ performance, in terms of quality and accuracy of assessment reports, should also be monitored more and held to higher standards.

The Mind report Reassessing assessments is available from mind.org.uk.