Money Wellness
Illustration of woman hugging knees on floor upset due to poor mental health
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calendar icon17 Jun 2024

Almost 1 million people claimed mental health benefits within 4 years

Since the covid-19 lockdown, almost a million people have claimed universal credit (UC) for mental health problems.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) found that 69% of UC health claims were made by people with mental health and behavioural disorders.

There were 978,300 mental-health related claims made between January 2022 and February 2024.

The DWP data shows that more working-age women are claiming UC for health reasons than men. People living in Wales are the most likely to be claiming health benefits without obligation to look for work.

In April, the Tories announced plans to change the work capability assessment, which determines what benefits a person is awarded, in an attempt to ‘clamp down on fraudsters’. They say this will save £12bn a year by 2030.

The Conservatives’ manifesto addressed the need to “tighten up” how the benefits system assesses capability for work, and criticised the “default” sick note process wherein “94% of sick notes are being signed off as ‘not fit to work’”.

In April, Sunak said it was “wrong” that 65% of those doing a capability assessment are considered unfit to work, compared to 20% in 2011.

“People are not three times sicker than they were a decade ago,” he said.

But last week, Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS confederation said, “people are sicker than they were, with more complex healthcare needs”.

And the disability news service has pointed out the work capability assessment was harsher in 2011, before its “most serious flaws were exposed”.

On top of this, the office for statistics regulation (OSR) took issue with comments by Mel Stride, the work and pensions secretary. He claimed that when people tell their doctor they’re “feeling rather down and bluesy”, in 94% of cases, the doctor signs them off as not fit to work.

But OSR said the reasons for granting fit notes are varied, adding that 74% of fit notes issued between October 2022 and September 2023 “do not have a diagnosis recorded in the data so we can’t tell why they were issued”.

Connie Enzler

Connie is a multimedia money-wellness-in-work expert, with a master's in multimedia journalism and over five years' experience as a digital writer and podcast creator. Connie is committed to making debt and personal finance information accessible to all.

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