UK May Strip Disability Benefits from People Who Refuse Mental Health Treatment


“Hundreds of thousands of benefit claimants face being stripped of their state allowances if they refuse to undergo treatment for anxiety and depression, under radical plans being drawn up by ministers,” reported Britain’s Telegraph last month. “The government is piloting ways to get more people with mental health problems into work by combining earlier treatment with employment support,” confirmed BBC News. “The Department for Work and Pensions said treatment would not be mandatory in the pilot scheme but that remained an ‘idea’ for the future.” The whole plan is a “cruel concept,” said a commentary in The Guardian today that drew more attention to the pilot program.

A government report in January said many people with mental health problems who are collecting social welfare do not get treatment, and proposed supporting “early intervention” programs for them. The UK government already has another pilot project running in which people obtaining sickness benefits are being forced to have regular visits with government-appointed health professionals.

“Where will all the mental health experts necessary for treating 260,000 [Employment and Support Allowance] claimants come from?” asked Kit Marsters in a Guardian commentary. “How qualified are they? How long will the treatment be available for? What happens when a person’s mental health does not improve at a rate that is agreeable? Will they be sanctioned? How can a person be expected to feel less anxious and less depressed when they are living with the fear of losing their benefits?”

Linking mental health treatment to job support is a cruel concept (The Guardian, August 6, 2014)

Benefit claimants who refuse treatment for depression face having handouts axed (Daily Express, July 13, 2014)

Tories discuss stripping benefits claimants who refuse treatment for depression (The Telegraph, July 12, 2014)

Mental health job support scheme piloted
(BBC News, July 13, 2014)

Pilot schemes to help people on sickness benefits back to work (UK Department for Work and Pensions Press Release, November 4, 2013)

Psychological Wellbeing and Work (Rand Europe and UK Department for Work and Pensions Report. January 2014.)

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Rob Wipond
Rob Wipond is a freelance journalist who writes frequently on the interfaces between psychiatry, civil rights, the justice system, and social change. His articles have been nominated for three Canadian National Magazine Awards, nine Western Magazine Awards, and five Webster Awards for journalism. He is currently working on a book about people's experiences of forced psychiatric treatment, and can be contacted through his website.


  1. Thanks Copy_cat
    These drugs are extremely disabling. The one thing that gets in the way of doing a days work is psychiatric medication.
    I am described with all the big ‘Labels’ – I returned to normal functioning as a result of stopping psychiaric medication.

  2. it will be bad, “Therapy,” from a profit driven private company that does not address someone’s problems while sanctioning them if they do not turn up.

    Bad pay and an insecure job market as causes will not be addressed.

    Hey ho, capitalism drives you mad and then you take big pharma products with harm you then some grotty multinational gets paid government money (ie money from from the general populaition via taxation) to pressure you to go back to a grotty job that makes the rich richer and leaves you feeling even grottier

  3. I noticed the Australian government is trying to deal with the unintended consequences of handing over 20% of the population to big pharma.

    They obviously didn’t consider the consequences of labelling people as ill ending up on welfare benefits. Its quite a balancing act they are going to have to perform to make people sick enough to be drugged, but not too sick that they can claim benefits.

    I know they have their eyes on 600,000 people here in Australia. I suppose they could always see which ones can be put to work, and maybe ‘repurpose’ Zyklon B to treat the rest.

  4. This really is “a cruel concept.” Defame millions of people with scientifically “lacking in validity” disorders, and coerce / force them onto brain and body damaging drugs, based upon scientifically proven lies. Then the governments take billions from the drug companies, due to their fraud. And now the government wants to keep the money for themselves, rather than help those who were actually harmed by the toxic pharmaceutical drugs. It sure does seem we have greedy, unjust psychopaths in charge at this point.

  5. I’m on SSDI for depression,anxiety and related symptoms and the benefits are very skimpy. I live with a parent now but without living with said parent (as I was for about 7 years) I would be living in very dumpy low income housing in bad stressful bleak neighborhood affording very cheap, unhealthy food and living under the stigma of poverty which enhances if not causes mental health issues. I have been pressured on occasions very strongly to take medications. Having been on medications for about eight years I know that they are not helpful to me and cause bad unwanted side effects. I worry that I may lose my benefits which though are very skimpy would still create more problems for me.I use yoga,exercise,sleep,positive distraction like intellectually stimulating activities,learning, or even watching fantasy cartoon ect. to help me keep my mood up which is a constant job for me with the tendency to be depressed. I think rather than mandating meds we should have a low stress lifestyle option where a person gets a basic income that raises them above the poverty line, options for therapy and this include holistic therapies like massage therapy,yoga classes, maybe some kind of extra incentive to buy fruits and veg like food stamps (that can be added onto the overall basic income) that can be used for produce . Also I would add Y-membership or a gym membership of some kind. Also there could be opportunities to do light work that is socially beneficial and not too stressful, like maybe 1 to 24 hours a week helping out at a recycling center or at a stray cat refuge or serving meals at a respite center or elderly persons home. I would also add if a person needs internet or appliances have some kind of discount or sliding scale so they can afford or have access to these things which increase quality of life, create more options and can help people transcend depression. There could also be optional group meets in public places for people with issues to gather and chat have some kind of group therapy session, I say in public because it is good to feel that you belong to a society rather than being aside from a society and being associated with a hospital, having meets in public lets people know they are part of the society and do not need to be hidden or associated with hospital setting.

    • Hey Corey…

      Yes the system we have in place…is to offer meager “benefits” that include just enough money to live in a depressing tiny apartment and just enough to buy unhealthy crap food which makes you more depressed and anxious. And yes, see your prescriber every two months for your 5 minute check in and take your meds so we can keep you on the dole.

      A horrible and deeply unhealthy system. Yes it would be great if that could be augmented by truly healthy offerings in the way of fresh food, yoga, a gym membership, etc. we choose to leave people isolated and drugged. And when they stop taking drugs because of the horrible side effects, the withdrawal effects send them back to the hospital for a very expensive “retreat.”

      I think the main way to address this is to examine the bottom line…money. Every county and State is stretched thin by their mental health care costs. We need to show that heavily medicating everybody leads to increased disability and then costs the government more. And yes, offering alternative programs, social clubs, gym memberships, healthy food, etc…will lead to less “decompensation”.

      Just drugging people and then sending them to live in shitty cubicles to eat top ramen the rest of their lives is a recipe for an unfolding disaster.

      • Our mental health system offers yacht club memberships, meals in the best restaurants in town, the absolute best real estate in town etc.

        Trouble is it only gets offered to the parasites at the top of the mental health system. Plenty of money, just disappearing into a few pockets.

    • FatherCoyote
      Does something like this exist?
      Last time I saw my GP – he nearly mugged me with ‘mental illness’. I had to complain to the Uk Ombudsman; to clean the interview of statements like “..denies marked anxiety, depression…”
      In 17 years with this (UK) doctors surgery – they have never conducted a basic interview with me.

  6. According to mental health advocates friends of mine, such a condition to the receipt of welfare benefits would require at the very least a change in the UK Mental Health Act (MHA).
    The pilot which is due to take place in the Autumn should not even take place since it will breach the terms of the Act. Therefore the pilot may be illegal.This would/will constitute (yet another) violation of our human rights, something that should be our first concern…. My hunch is that they are trying to force a change to the MHA through the pilot… i.e. pilot first, then forced change even if the outcome is inconclusive or negative (quite the norm for this gvt).
    And yet no one among the mental health charities and other groups at the high table of the Gvt are saying anything that I am aware of….