The Government is considering plans to make mental health patients on benefits prove that they suffer from depression – or risk having their financial support taken away.
As part of a raft of changes now being piloted, those looking to claim benefits who are too ill or disabled to work will now be subject to mental health assessments alongside the existing – and much criticised – system of Work Capability Assessments.
Welfare rules currently state that the Government cannot force claimants to undergo treatment in exchange for receiving their sickness benefits.
But ministers are now reported to be considering a change to that system so that officials can insist people go on courses of treatment like psychological therapy if they want to keep receiving payments.
The Telegraph reported that it is up to Tory ministers to try and convince senior Liberal Democrats that this “tough love” approach is needed to cut down on the welfare budget while helping more people to get treated.
The policy of mandatory treatments may even become part of the Conservative manifesto for next year’s general election, the newspaper said.
A Department for Work and Pensions source told the BBC that such a policy was “very much at the ideas stage”.
It has been reported that 46 per cent of people claiming a £101 a week Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) have mental health issues – suggesting that the Government’s new rules could apply to 260,000 people.
And the Liberal Democrat health minister Norman Lamb said that forcing people to prove their mental health problems by going to therapy was “not a sensible idea”.
He told the Sunday Telegraph: “The idea that you frogmarch someone into therapy with the threat of a loss of benefits simply won't work.
“It is not a question of whether tough love is a good concept,” he said. “You actually need someone to go into therapy willingly.”