MPs raise mental health crisis fear

Tuesday 17th May 2022 12:00 pm
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Arfon MP, Hywel Williams and Dwyfor Meirionnydd MP, Liz Saville Roberts

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THE MPs for Arfon and Dwyfor Meirionnydd have warned that people living with mental health problems in Gwynedd will be disproportionately affected by imminent reforms to legacy benefits, as the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) move all claimants on to Universal Credit.

Hywel Williams and Liz Saville Roberts say the DWP plan to tell all claimants they have a three-month deadline to apply for Universal Credit or face their current benefit claim being stopped altogether. They warn that people with mental health problems and those who may be too unwell to engage with the DWP could be left with no means of paying their rent, buying food or keep up with soaring energy bills.

Figures from the House of Commons Library reveal that 5,823 households in Gwynedd are still in receipt of legacy benefits and tax credits - 2,837 in Dwyfor Meirionnydd and 2,986 in Arfon. 41 per cent of benefit claimants in Wales are yet to be moved on to Universal Credit.

The MPs said: “There are currently 5,823 people in Gwynedd receiving legacy benefits who face being moved to Universal Credit.

“Many of these people are vulnerable and suffer from poor mental and physical health. Some may be too unwell to fill in forms or do not understand the process they’re being asked to follow. For them, continuity of financial support is vital.

“The worsening cost-of-living crisis will only add to the anxiety and uncertainty that many claimants live with daily. The last thing they need are threats that their benefits will be stopped in three months with limited support from the government.

“Putting their incomes at risk by setting arbitrary deadlines and expecting them to process complicated information is unreasonable. Not everyone has access to the internet to register a claim whilst many claimants with long term health needs require ongoing support. No one subject to managed migration from older benefit payments to Universal Credit should have their existing benefit stopped until they have established a claim to Universal Credit.

“Legacy benefits such as ESA are a lifeline to our most vulnerable constituents, many of whom have very poor mental health and suffer multiple health conditions. What they need is support, not further stress, and uncertainty. We call on the Department for Work and Pensions to take responsibility and provide claimants, particularly those suffering from mental health problems, with targeted support instead of setting unreasonable deadlines.”

A DWP spokesperson said: “We know work is the best route out of poverty and Universal Credit is a dynamic system which adjusts as people’s earnings change, is more generous overall than the old benefits, and simplifies our safety net for those who cannot work. Roughly 1.4 million people on legacy benefits would be an average of around £220 a month better off on Universal Credit, with top up payments available for eligible claimants whose Universal Credit entitlement is less.”

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