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Society calls for the suspension of benefit sanctions on people with a mental health condition

06 November 2018

The British Psychological Society strongly supports the finding of the Commons Work and Pensions Committee that “unfair and disproportionate application of the current sanctions regime is causing unintended consequences”.

Published today, the report of the committee’s inquiry into benefit sanctions calls for a review of the system after finding that it is arbitrary, punitive and at times “pointlessly cruel”.

No evidence the committee received, says the report, was “more compelling than that against the imposition of conditionality and sanctions on people with a disability or health condition. It does not work. Worse, it is harmful and counterproductive.”

It concludes that the human cost of continuing to apply the existing regime of benefit sanctions – the “only major welfare reform this decade to have never been evaluated” – is too high. The evidence that it is achieving its aims is at best mixed, and at worst showing a policy that appears “arbitrarily punitive”.

Sarb Bajwa, the Society’s chief executive, said:

“The committee’s report reflects the evidence it received. Its clear recommendations confirm our own concern at the harmful and counterproductive consequences of the use of sanctions with vulnerable people. They do not work. 

We called for a suspension of their use back in February 2017, and repeat this call again today alongside the committee. 

The government must immediately stop the use of sanctions with people with a mental health condition.  Any system designed to support and encourage vulnerable individuals must not cause or exacerbate psychological harm and distress.

We will continue to push for the introduction of a system that works with human behaviour and not against it.

We want to see a system that is based on psychological theory and evidence on human motivation and the types of support and incentives which support individual strengths. The current one emphasises deficits and makes unrealistic expectations of vulnerable people.“


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