Understanding the unemployment benefits available for mental health patients

Mental health conditions affect a much higher percentage of the population than many people realise. Some studies suggest that as many as 25% of adults in the United Kingdom will suffer from mental health issues, most commonly anxiety and depression, at some point in their lives. This is in part because we are now much better at identifying and diagnosing mental illnesses. There is also now a much greater acceptance of the fact that mental illnesses can be transient in nature. A transient mental illness is one that afflicts the patient for a limited time, rather than being a lifelong condition.

Great strides have been taken in terms of reducing the stigma surrounding mental illnesses. Previous generations have found it much harder to receive a diagnosis and begin subsequent treatment programs because doctors have been reluctant to diagnose mental illnesses in people of particular backgrounds and social classes.

The shift in attitudes towards mental illness and the way that we view and treat patients who suffer from various psychiatric conditions is reflected in the availability of support. Not only is it much easier for mental health patients to gain access to individuals and services who can help mitigate the impact of their illness on their day to day lives, but there is also extensive financial support available in the form of benefits. Financial worries are one of the leading causes of stress, and so it is important that mental health patients have access to support in this area.

Who can claim benefits?

There are a number of different benefits that can be claimed by individuals who are unable to work because of a mental or physical illness. Currently, there is no specific benefit for individuals with a mental illness and they are assessed according to the same criteria as those who are impeded by a physical illness. This can be frustrating for those living with depression or anxiety, as the way that these conditions manifest is often very different to physical ailments.

If you are either living with a mental illness, or you feel that your mental health is suffering because of financial pressures, then you should look at applying for benefits. There are different benefits available depending on the individual’s circumstances. Each benefit is designed to assist patients financially so that they can take care of their day to day needs as independently as possible. Some people are unable to take on the responsibilities and pressures of full-time employment and so are limited to part-time work, which is unlikely to generate a large enough income for them to live off. There are benefits available to help these people, which act as ‘top-ups’. These stack on top of part-time wages with the goal of allowing the patient’s total income to match that of full-time employment.

What am I entitled to?

Unfortunately, it is up to individuals to ascertain what benefits they are entitled to. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is not under any legal obligation to inform individuals as to what benefits they can claim. Many see this as being a gross oversight and a glaring flaw in the benefits system, after all, it is those who are the least capable of making this determination for themselves who are usually in the most need of help. While you are able to directly approach the DWP and ask them ‘what benefits can I claim for depression and anxiety’, they are under no obligation to give you specific answers.

Fortunately, there are a number of online services which have sprung up to address this problem. One example is this online calculator from Turn2us. It is well worth checking it out to get an idea of where to begin your enquiries. You can also consult with your local branch of the Citizens Advice Bureau; they are an independent organisation who advise citizens on a range of different matters. They can also advise you on the resources available to help you manage money better when you are suffering a mental illness.

The Benefits Available

Universal Credit (UC) has been in the news a lot recently. This benefit was devised as a means of simplifying and streamlining the claims process but has ultimately caused a lot of problems. For those who are living in certain areas of the country, and on a low income, UC is now the only benefit that you can claim.

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is a benefit designed to provide financial assistance to those who are unable to work because of an illness or disability. The ESA assessment is notorious for being unforgiving towards many mental health patients, therefore, if you plan to claim this benefit, you should research heavily beforehand. ESA is less than a full-time wage and so patients will still need to carefully manage their money while claiming this benefit.

The personal independence payment (PIP) is aimed at mental health patients who require assistance in completing day to day tasks. So, for the people who haven't heard of it before, What is Personal Independence Payment? PIP is a benefit for people suffering from a physical or mental health issue, that is not affected by employment status or income. If you visit the Citizens Advice Bureau, you can ask them questions such as ‘can I claim pip’ or ‘do I qualify for pip’ - they will be able to assist and guide you through the applications process. guide you through the applications process.

Living with a mental illness can add many unexpected challenges to an individual’s life, not least of all when it comes to properly managing their money. There is now a much better level of mental health awareness throughout society, which is good news for vulnerable patients and their carers.