The Social Security Advisory Committee – the panel of experts responsible for scrutinising laws which affect the benefits system – have published the Government’s draft proposals for moving more than two million disabled people onto Universal Credit. The Government has said that this will take place between 2019 and 2023. It will affect around one million people with mental health problems who currently receive the disability benefit Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
Under these proposals people currently getting ESA will receive a letter informing them that their benefits will be stopped and asking them to make a new claim to Universal Credit. The proposals suggest people will be given between one and three months to do this, with some circumstances in which that would be extended.
Sophie Corlett, Director of External Relations at mental health charity Mind, said: “We are hugely concerned about the ramifications of these proposals, which leave open the real possibility that many people with mental health problems could see their benefits stopped entirely while they struggle with the process of applying for Universal Credit. These are people who have already been through a rigorous and stressful assessment process and declared eligible for benefits because they are disabled or unwell.
“Already, far too many people are losing out because they can’t navigate the online system for Universal Credit or fill out complex forms when they’re unwell. The safeguards the Government has proposed simply do not address the concern that people will slip through the net and be left without a source of income.
“This ill-advised, short-sighted, cost-cutting measure should be scrapped. It’s completely unfair to place all the responsibility on severely unwell people to have to reapply for a new benefit and risk losing their income in the process. If the Government really is determined to move people over to this much-criticised new benefit, they should take responsibility for moving people onto it smoothly and safely while protecting their income and their health.”