Select Committee on Social Security Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by national mental health organisations

Summary of concerns highlighted by MACA, MIND, the National Schizophrenia Fellowship and the Royal College of Psychiatrists

We welcome the broad thrust of the SWFG which offers people with mental health problems the opportunity of being gainfully employed. However the proposals made by the Government in the Bill that there should be single gateway to access most benefits including Incapacity Benefit and Job Seekers Allowance will pose considerable problems for some people who have mental health problems.

The provisions of the Bill mean that people with mental health problems will be called up for an interview without a statutory right of advocacy, with an interviewing officer who is unlikely to have had special training in dealing with people with mental health problems, to examine their likelihood of being able to obtain employment. This proposal could have a number of serious consequences.

  • people with a mental illness who receive a summons for such an interview may react adversely. This could include stress reactions which in turn could provoke a relapse of their condition
  • some people might misinterpret such an interview request in a psychotic fashion and might behave irrationally
  • some people might, through anxiety, choose to ignore such a summons and put themselves in great peril of losing all benefits
  • some people might attend an interview but give misleading information due to the presence of delusions or their wish to return to work, which leads to inappropriate advice being given.


1. Persons with a diagnosed mental illness should be exempt from compulsory attendance at a Gateway interview.

2. Advocacy, if requested, must be a statutory right at the interview, set out in the Bill.

3. If this Bill goes ahead unamended then it will be necessary for interviewing officers to have special training, which would be subject to validation, in dealing with people with a mental illness.

4. The proposed regulations should not come into force until the Government has formally assessed its SWFG pilot schemes.

Simon Lawton Smith,

Head of Public Affairs, MACA

11 June 1999

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