The government is piloting ways to get support more people with their mental health problems in the work place by combining early treatment with employment support.
Thousands of Employment and Support Allowance claimants could be affected by these new changes. The Department for Work and Pensions has said treatment would not be mandatory in the pilot scheme but the ideas remains for the future, reports the BBC.
People wishing to claim ESA must currently undergo mandatory tests carried out by a doctor or healthcare professional. Critics have said that these checks have caused distress to those with vulnerabilities due to delays and wrong decisions.
The new pilot scheme will see mental health assessments included in these checks. Other therapy recommendations are not currently mandatory.
The first of four government pilots is being trialled at four job centres – Durham and Tees Valley, Surrey and Sussex, Black Country and Midland Shires.
Tom Pollard, policy and campaigns manager at Mind, said: “If people are not getting access to the support they need, the government should address levels of funding for mental health services rather than putting even more pressure on those supported by benefits and not currently well enough to work. Talking therapies can be effective, but it is often a combination of treatments which allow people to best manage their symptoms and engaging in therapy should be voluntary.”
A DWP source described the policy as “very much at the ideas stage” and a spokeswoman said there had not yet been any discussion as to how the pilots might be expanded or the costs involved in doing so.
People on ESA currently receive up to £101.15 a week if they are placed in the work-related activity group, where an adviser assists with training and skills.
The government says it spends around £13bn a year on ESA and incapacity benefits.
It estimates that it could save £1.41 for every £1 it spends on this new mental health treatment.
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