The number of benefit sanctions imposed on people with mental health problems has increased by over 600 per cent over the last four years, Department for Work and Pensions statistics show.
A joint analysis of the figures by the Independent and the mental health charity Mind found that 19,259 people with such conditions had their benefits stopped under sanction in 2014-15 compared to just 2,507 in 2011-12 – a 668 per cent rise.
The finding comes weeks after ministers rejected a call to investigate whether such sanctions – which involve stopping a person’s disability benefit income for weeks at a time to enforce compliance – are damaging to mental health.
The ramping up of the policy goes against the advice of mental health charities, who have previously warned that its aggressive approach worsens mental health problems and makes it harder for people to return to work.
Tom Pollard, policy and campaigns manager at Mind, said the dramatic rise was “alarming” and that the Government was refusing to listen to criticism of the sanctions’ impact.
“Stopping somebody’s benefits, or threatening to stop them, is completely the wrong approach to help people with mental health problems find work – it’s actually counterproductive. Pressurising someone to engage in often inappropriate activities under the threat of losing their benefit causes a huge deal of additional anxiety, often making people more unwell and less able to work,” he told theIndependent.