Friday, May 1, 2015

Harper suggests backing for mental health treatment sanctions

Mark HarperThe Tory minister for disabled people appears to have accidentally admitted what many disabled activists feared: that a Conservative government would cut the out-of-work benefits of people with mental health conditions if they refused treatment.

In a debate broadcast on local radio, Mark Harper strongly suggested that people with mental health problems would be among the group with “long-term yet treatable” conditions who could be sanctioned if they refused treatment.

The pledge to review whether such sanctions should be introduced is included in the Tory manifesto, under a promise to “review how best to support those suffering from long-term yet treatable conditions, such as drug or alcohol addiction, or obesity, back into work”.

It adds: “People who might benefit from treatment should get the medical help they need so they can return to work.

“If they refuse a recommended treatment, we will review whether their benefits should be reduced.”
But the party has refused to confirm that people with mental health conditions would be among this group facing potential sanctions.

Disabled activists have described the plans as “wild, stupid”, “unconscionable”, and “highly dangerous”, while the Tory MP Dr Sarah Wollaston, who chaired the Commons health select committee in the last parliament, has said on Twitter that sanctions linked to medical treatment would be “unethical”.

But this week, at an election hustings event hosted by the BBC in Harper’s Forest of Dean constituency, the minister for disabled people appeared to confirm that people with long-term mental health problems would be among those facing sanctions...