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Incapacity Benefit: Mentally Ill

Volume 498: debated on Monday 26 October 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment has been made of the likely impact on the mental health of people in receipt of incapacity benefit due to mental health problems of proposals to change eligibility for incapacity benefit. (293887)

Several steps have been taken to mitigate any stress caused to those with mental health conditions upon entering the claim process for employment and support allowance.

The questionnaire that most customers will fill in when they claim employment and support allowance (the ESA50) has been redesigned to make it more customer-friendly. We have improved the wording, lay-out and design of the form. The questionnaire used for the previous assessment did not fully take into account the cognitive functions of people with learning disabilities and other conditions such as brain damage, that are not mental health problems. The new questionnaire also includes the opportunity for individuals to detail fluctuations in the nature of their condition. Where customers suffer from mental health conditions, the claim will be progressed even if the questionnaire is not completed.

Every month a customer satisfaction survey is sent at random to a large number of customers. This ensures an ongoing assessment of the customer experience and highlights any areas in need of review and improvement.

In addition, to protect our most vulnerable customers, Jobcentre Plus has ensured that safeguards are embedded into the design and delivery of employment and support allowance. These safeguards ensure that where a customer has a mental health condition, and fails to comply with the Work Capability Assessment processes, benefit will not be withdrawn until their responsibilities have been explained to them either by telephone contact or a home visit.