Money Wellness
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calendar icon07 May 2024

Government should ‘improve people’s health rather than cutting benefits’

The government needs to focus on improving the health of the nation rather than threatening to cut benefits, according to a leading academic.

Richard Machin, senior lecturer in social work and health at Nottingham Trent University, has criticised government plans to replace regular cash payments to those claiming personal independence payment (PIP) with single grants and vouchers.

He says the best way to cut the number of people relying on disability benefits is to address the causes of illness and make sure appropriate support is available.

Improving the nation's health

Writing for the Conversation, Machin calls for:

  • more money to provide better health and social care
  • a plan to address housing insecurity and social isolation
  • reduced waiting times for medical appointments

He points out that both the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Psychiatrists have said what’s really needed is a focus on improving the population’s mental health.

Machin argues people with long-term health issues should not be condemned to financial hardship through inadequate support. He says:

“Continuing need cannot be met by one-off responses.”

Improving the PIP system

The academic is also calling for improvements to the PIP system. He says his own research has revealed:

  • the process is hard to navigate
  • communication from the Department for Work and Pensions is poor
  • the forms claimants have to fill in are overly complicated
  • negative messaging about benefit claimants is particularly damaging to those with mental health issues

Machin says the best place to start would be by improving the accuracy and timeliness of claims decisions.

He warns that the current system of using private companies to provide medical assessments is expensive and unreliable. The lecturer believes relying on medical evidence from professionals familiar with a claimant’s condition would be more effective and accurate.

Machin also thinks the government is wasting money by forcing claimants with long-term conditions to make repeated claims. He says this is unnecessary and costly, and is causing avoidable stress to people already suffering.

Avatar of Rebecca Routledge

Rebecca Routledge

A qualified journalist for over 15 years with a background in financial services. Rebecca is Money Wellness’s consumer champion, helping you improve your financial wellbeing by providing information on everything from income maximisation to budgeting and saving tips.

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