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We welcome the UK Government’s pledge to increase welfare support by 6.7% next year, but we remain deeply concerned about the plans to force people with mental or physical health issues into work. This will impact people with conditions such as depression, anxiety, or severe pain while waiting for an operation.

Hundreds of thousands of people who can’t work due to long-term mental or physical health issues, will face cuts to their benefits and be expected to find employment within 18 months. If they are unable to find work, they will face mandatory work experience.

We are already seeing an increasing number of people accessing our services because of financial crisis. Our Together in a Crisis services, which provide immediate crisis support across the North East, have reported that 54% of referrals this October were primarily due to financial struggles.

Our Chief Executive, Adam Crampsie, commented:

“We’re appalled by these punitive proposals for people who are unable to work. We know there is a positive link between work and mental health, but it needs to be at the right time in a person’s recovery journey.

“Forcing someone who is too mentally or physically unwell to work, under the threat of cutting their benefits, back into the job market does nothing to improve their wellbeing or make them more able to find a job. It only piles more pressure and stigma onto people who are already struggling.

“We know that people in the lowest 20% income bracket in the UK are up to three times more likely to develop mental health problems. Research has shown that people receiving Universal Credit are already over three times more likely to consider suicide because of the cost-of-living crisis than people who don’t receive benefits.

“Adding this pressure to work and then reducing people’s income will add yet more financial worry, leading to a worsening of the issues making them unable to work in the first place. We are already seeing more people refer to our crisis service looking for financial and benefits advice, and these proposed cuts will only see that number increase.

“We’re also deeply concerned about the proposal to cut free prescriptions for this same group of people, alongside reducing their benefits, which will risk mental and physical conditions going unmedicated.

“We urge the government to rethink these proposed changes. Instead, the focus must be on strengthening and improving the NHS and social care services that help people overcome the challenges affecting their lives. This is how we will improve wellbeing and ultimately enable more people to find stability in work.

“And at Everyturn, we’ll continue to make sure that there’s immediate mental health support available, by continuing to develop accessible, community-based mental health services, so that no one is left to struggle alone.”

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