Call for flexible incapacity benefit The government’s proposals
for incapacity benefit reform will be an “acid test” of its
attitude towards people with mental health problems, a leading
campaigner has said.
Rethink’s director of public affairs, Paul Farmer, told a fringe
meeting at the Liberal Democrat conference that proposals to cut
the number of people on the benefit, due out shortly, will
represent either an opportunity or a threat for people with mental
Farmer said a flexible welfare system, in which people could try
out a job without losing benefits, could help people with mental
health problems, who account for more than a third of
He went on to criticise initial Department for Work and Pensions
proposals, issued in February this year, which he said would
penalise people with “manageable” conditions for not taking part in
The meeting also heard that the government could face a
rebellion from its own benches if it does not accept
recommendations from a joint committee of MPs and peers, issued in
March, to reform its draft Mental Health Bill.
Baroness Liz Barker, the Liberal Democrats’ spokesperson in the
House of Lords on mental health and a member of the committee,
said: “I think there are a great many people in the Labour party
who, if there’s a lack of response from the government, will be
The committee said that the draft bill was “fundamentally”
flawed and was overly focused on compulsion and public protection
at the expense of treatment.
The Mental Health Bill is expected in November.