X

Create an account to continue reading.

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles
For unlimited access to The Spectator, subscribe below

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles

Sign in to continue

Already have an account?

What's my subscriber number?

Subscribe now from £1 a week

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
 
View subscription offers

Already a subscriber?

or

Subscribe now for unlimited access

ALL FROM JUST £1 A WEEK

View subscription offers

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Login

Don't have an account? Sign up
X

Subscription expired

Your subscription has expired. Please go to My Account to renew it or view subscription offers.

X

Forgot Password

Please check your email

If the email address you entered is associated with a web account on our system, you will receive an email from us with instructions for resetting your password.

If you don't receive this email, please check your junk mail folder.

X

It's time to subscribe.

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access – from just £1 a week

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
X

Sign up

What's my subscriber number? Already have an account?

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Your subscriber number is the 8 digit number printed above your name on the address sheet sent with your magazine each week.

Entering your subscriber number will enable full access to all magazine articles on the site.

If you cannot find your subscriber number then please contact us on customerhelp@subscriptions.spectator.co.uk or call 0330 333 0050.

You can create an account in the meantime and link your subscription at a later time. Simply visit the My Account page, enter your subscriber number in the relevant field and click 'submit changes'.

Coffee House

Mental health and benefits: ministers get the wrong end of the stick

13 July 2014

5:19 PM

13 July 2014

5:19 PM

Every so often when ministers are considering a policy, they send a little kite up to see how it’s received. Sometimes it gets hit by a lightning bolt of fury from a party’s target voters, and is never heard of again. Sometimes it flutters about and no-one plays a blind bit of notice. And sometimes the kite gets rapturous applause. There seems to be a mixed response to the kite flown today that people with anxiety and depression could be forced to have a talking therapy such as cognitive behavioural therapy or risk losing their benefits.

On the one hand, it’s welcome that ministers want to help people with mental health conditions that can be managed so that someone can go back to work. Unemployment is hardly conducive to good self-esteem and strong mental health. On the other, it’s pretty darn difficult to force someone to take any treatment at all, not to mention unethical. Health Select Committee chair Sarah Wollaston doesn’t like it for that reason:

But there’s another point that’s worth considering, which is that talking therapies often have very long waiting lists. This policy would perhaps make more sense were talking therapies so readily available that anyone could ask for them and find themselves in a consulting room or talking to a therapist over the phone within days. But that is not the case, and is not anywhere near the case, either. Mind, the mental health charity, estimates that one in 10 patients waits longer than a year to receive psychological treatment. There is no suggestion in today’s kite that incorporating talking therapies as mandatory element of the work programme would include investment in increasing the availability of those treatments.

[Alt-Text]


If ministers don’t want quite so many people floating about on benefits who could, given the right support, return to work, or if they don’t want people who leave work because they have not been given the right support and their condition has deteriorated, might I humbly suggest that the thing to do is not to mandate access to that help, but ensure it is on offer in the first place? What is the point of pushing someone through a therapy that must have their consent and engagement to have even a cat’s chance of working when another person who is not claiming employment and support allowance but is desperate for treatment must wait? And why must policy be skewed so that it is only those whose illnesses mean they have left the workplace already who are prioritised for treatment?

This is one of the sillier remarks from a government source:

‘But there are loads of people who claim ESA who undergo no treatment whatsoever. It is bizarre. This is a real problem because we want people to get better.’

It is indeed bizarre that people on ESA are undergoing no treatment whatsoever, just as it is bizarre that people suffering from illnesses which can kill must wait over a year for treatment.

Recently health minister Norman Lamb – who has told the Telegraph that he opposes this benefits policy – admitted to Radio 4 that he couldn’t say when the government would be able to achieve parity of esteem between the way physical and mental health are treated by the NHS, even though this is a goal the government has set itself. Charles Walker, former chair of the all-party parliamentary group on mental health and an outspoken Conservative campaigner on this issue, recently wrote on Coffee House that the government’s rhetoric fails to match the reality.

Perhaps ministers could reel their kite in a little and have a good think about the reason so many people are languishing on benefits with mental health problems. It might not be because they’ve never been forced to take up a therapy. Instead, it might be because that therapy has never been available to them in the first place.

Give something clever this Christmas – a year’s subscription to The Spectator for just £75. And we’ll give you a free bottle of champagne. Click here.


Show comments
Close