Government officials are piloting ways to force benefit claimants to undergo mental health treatment or risk losing their benefits, reports suggest.
A series of pilots combining help to work initiatives and mental health treatments, led jointly by the Department of Health and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), are due to be expanded within weeks
The Daily Telegraph reports that the government is trialling a scheme in which rules excluding treatment for anxiety and depression from becoming a condition of sickness benefits are lifted.
A series of pilots combining help to work initiatives and mental health treatments, led jointly by the Department of Health and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), are due to be expanded within weeks, the newspaper said over the weekend.
However, the DWP said treatment would not be compulsory in the pilot scheme but that the option remained an ‘idea’ for the future.
Government statistics suggest that 46% of benefit claimants receiving Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) have mental health issues.
The changes would only affect those who were judged as capable of work.
‘We know that depression and anxiety are treatable conditions,’ a senior government source told the Daily Telegraph. ‘Cognitive behavioural therapies work and they get people stable again but you can’t mandate people to take that treatment.
‘But there are loads of people who claim ESA who undergo no treatment whatsoever. It is bizarre. This is a real problem because we want people to get better.
‘These are areas we need to explore. The taxpayer has committed a lot of money but the idea was never to sustain them for years and years on benefit. We think it’s time for a rethink.
‘At some point something has to be done. Right now it’s an open ended contract.’
Currently, ESA claimants are subject to benefit sanctions if they do not attend jobseekers’ interviews but they are not made to comply with conditions requir