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The Personal Independence Payment (PIP) was introduced in April 2013, replacing Disability Living Allowance (DLA) as the main non-means-tested disability benefit, intended to cover additional costs related to disability. disability or long-term health problems.

Benefit policy changes like this are difficult for many claimants, but through interviews with service users, we found that this major welfare reform was causing significant problems for people with disabilities. mental health, and that the policy implemented in a climate of austerity is particularly problematic. Our results also reveal the impact it has on local government services.

All of our research participants reported increased anxiety as a result of the change in benefits, problems with the PIP claims process and medical assessment, and difficulty communicating with staff at the Department of Work and Pensions ( DWP). They also expressed difficulty in accurately reporting complex health issues on the PIP claim form.

There was also strong dissatisfaction with the medical assessment that applicants must attend, which is carried out by private contractors Atos and Capita. Participants felt that the medical assessments were rigid and impersonal, and did not recognize the true extent of the mental health problems encountered.

They often expressed the feeling of being judged: “It doesn’t seem right that the medical evaluation be done by the same people whether or not you have mental problems. I’m not sure they really understood what I was trying to tell them.

The communication difficulties focused on the fact that the DWP did not provide clear and understandable information on the new criteria for PIP and the practical modalities of the medical assessment.

More positive experiences have been reported. Research participants emphasized that PIP is a vital source of income, not only for disability-related expenses, but also for more general living expenses such as food, utility bills and transportation. All respondents said they appreciated the support of professional social law advisers to help them navigate a complex process. For many, the experience of applying for PIP was associated with making new connections in the community with people facing similar challenges, often through online networks.

Our results have several important implications for local government. In general terms, this research has shown that people with mental health challenges can find times of reform and transformation overwhelming. Language, messages and clear timelines were all identified as important for people with mental health issues.

Local government staff should be careful to avoid a “test and learn” approach when introducing new policies or initiatives that affect people with mental health problems. Too often, people with mental health issues feel their views are being ignored or overlooked, and timely and meaningful equality impact assessments are crucial.

This research has clearly shown that for people with mental health issues, the additional income provided by PIP is crucial. When this source of income is lost or interrupted, applicants of course often turn to the local government for help. Whether through social services, housing assistance or discretionary funds such as the new Household Support Fund. It is important for local residents and local government departments to ensure that people with mental health issues claim the appropriate disability benefits.

Over the past decade, we have witnessed significant reductions in internal advisory services from local governments and voluntary sector organizations. This research shows that people with mental health problems rely on independent expert advice on social assistance. In the difficult landscape where local government has been hit by austerity measures and new pressures related to COVID-19, it remains crucial that people with mental health issues are clearly reported to local welfare services.

Finally, this research has shown that significant policy change is often underpinned by outsourced and digitized services. These can work, but often people with mental health issues feel lost in systems that lack personalized support. Providing tailored services to people with mental health problems has always been important to local government, and it remains so as we continue to see the long-term impact of a ten-year reform program. ‘welfare.

Richard Machin is Senior Lecturer in Social Work and Health at Nottingham Trent University

This research was conducted in collaboration with Fiona McCormack, Center for Health and Development, Staffordshire University. Read the full article here.

Photo: Graeme Lamb / Shutterstock.com

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