Mentally ill people more at risk of losing benefits 

Research to be published in the College’s BJPsych Open in February splashed across news websites, forced a response from the DWP and shook the corridors of power, with the Scottish National Party calling an urgent review into the findings.

The study of 327,000 claimants who switched from DLA to PIP between April 2013 and October 2016 found those who are mentally ill are 2.4 times more likely than those with a non-psychiatric condition to lose their benefit.

People with alcohol and substance misuse problems were twice as likely to have their benefit scrapped and those with ADHD were over three times more likely.

The potential loss of income amounts to £141.10 per week for people with the most severe mental health conditions.

Our social inclusion lead, Dr Jed Boardman, wasn’t surprised by the findings in what he called an “excellent paper”.

The researchers from the University of York were led by PHD candidate Katie Pybus and included Professors Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson - authors of the 2009 book ‘The Spirit Level’ - which looked at inequality in societies across the globe and was lauded across the political spectrum.

The findings reverberated around Westminster, with the SNP calling for an urgent review. They said that the “findings raise huge questions over whether the DWP is discriminating against those who suffer from mental health issues and hidden disabilities” and that “the UK government must urgently review their approach.”

The research supports concerns raised in a Work and Pensions Select Committee report which found that PIP assessors had a lack of specialist mental health knowledge and used informal observations to make judgements on a claimants’ mental health condition.

In media coverage that included The Guardian, Huffington Post and The Sun, Jed remarked that we shouldn’t tolerate a benefits system that discriminates against people with mental illness and called for parity in our benefits system.

The paper was the basis of an opinion piece in Thursday’s Guardian in which the author, Frances Ryan, accused the government of “institutional discrimination” in a “benefits system less likely to help you simply because you are mentally ill.”


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