Universal Credit linked with poor mental health, warns SAMH

Written by Tom Freeman on 12 March 2019 in News

Mental health charity reports Universal Credit is impacting the mental health of claimants and calls for a halt to rollout

DWP - John Stillwell/PA

The operation of Universal Credit has caused hardship and additional emotional distress to people using the system, leading to poor mental health outcomes, according to new research by Scottish mental health charity SAMH.

People who already have existing problems also face barriers to accessing the benefits they are entitled to, the report found.

SAMH has called for an immediate halt to the rollout of the benefit system until the issues are addressed.

Universal Credit, a flagship reform of the UK Government, combines previously separate benefits into a single payment, but has been criticised because many find their overall payments have fallen, and face a lengthy wait for their first payment.

SAMH said the conditionality and sanctions in the system also cause distress.

‘Work Coaches’, who make decisions over eligibility, are not trained in mental health or disability. Meanwhile applications are digital by default, excluding those who need support, the charity warns.

Carolyn Lochhead, interim head of communications and public affairs at SAMH, said: “Research shows that good and fair employment can help your mental health, so we support efforts to simplify the social security system.

“However, this report clearly shows that this aim has been undermined through the structure and delivery of Universal Credit and has instead added new barriers for people with mental health problems.

“Universal Credit is likely to affect many of the people we support across Scotland, so we hope the UK Government will implement our recommendations, which aim to positively change policy and practice.”

UK Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd has admitted that the initial phase of Universal Credit contributed to a rise in food bank use.

Ahead of the latest rollout in Yorkshire, Rudd said: “Moving people from the old and outdated benefits system to Universal Credit is a positive and important moment.

“Once on Universal Credit people will benefit from a more personal service and can expect to receive up to 6 benefits combined into one, making it easier for them to manage their money.”

DWP staff in England are striking over workload issues with the rollout of Universal Credit.

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