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Incapacity Benefit reviews can result in suicides say mental health campaigners

Incapacity Benefit reviews can result in suicides say mental health campaigners
The better the Incapacity Benefit safety net the safer it is for people recovering from poor mental health to walk the tightrope back to employment says Big Society trouble-shooter Robert Ashton.
Mental health campaigners including Mind, Centre for Mental Health, Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Scottish Association for Mental Health have signed a letter warning Government that their Incapacity Benefit review scheme is unfit for purpose and can result in suicides.
The letter says: "We've found that the prospect of incapacity benefit reassessment is causing huge amounts of distress, and tragically there have already been cases where people have taken their own life following problems with changes to their benefits.
Social Entrepreneur Robert Ashton has added his voice to the campaign and called on Government to re-appraise benefits so as to provide a safety net for mental health sufferers who are on the journey back into work.
People who have the least have to take the biggest risk, said Mr Ashton, who is also a campaigner for Time to Change lets end mental health discrimination.
If an individual can be encouraged to take part in a social enterprise, for example, they will be adjudged fit for work and if the enterprise flops they will be denied returning to the same level of benefits, he said. They are risking everything that they have achieved on their way to recovery possibly including their home and their family.
Mr Ashton said that he was currently working on a project which a large Midland County Council has agreed to fund which will provide a strong, visible safety net for people moving from Incapacity Benefit to self employment or social enterprise.
Take the case of Fred who has survived an unhappy childhood, sexual abuse, years in mental health institutions and more, he explained. Gradual recovery enabled him to marry, start a part time degree and hopefully play a leading role in the start-up of the social enterprise.
Mr Ashton is worried that if the Midlands project failed Fred would be unable to return to incapacity benefit and was risking everything he had. Thus, he sought the support and agreement of the County Council. 
For the Big Society to succeed Government has to encourage Councils to take some of the risks away from people like Fred. If the project fails he will be back on benefits but if it succeeds he will be well on the way to returning to normal society, he said.
The coalition government has committed itself to reassessing all 2.6 million on incapacity benefit and its successor - employment support allowance (ESA) - by 2014.


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