ELECTION 2015: Harper suggests backing for mental health treatment sanctions


The 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.

He told the audience: “For people who are long-term sick… sometimes people simply can’t return to work and we need to make sure we support them, which is why we have systems in place.

“The most beneficial thing we can do though is to deal with the disability that they have got and particularly with those people with mental health problems, most of which are treatable, is to get the support in place so they can get back to work, which is what most of them want to do.”

So far, neither Harper nor the Conservative party have been willing to comment on Harper’s apparent blunder, which came after Tory ministers repeatedly ducked out of opportunities to defend their disability-related policies and their record over the last five years.

Last week, Harper himself cancelled an appearance on Newsnight, when he was due to debate benefit reform with representatives of Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

And this week, employment minister Esther McVey was reported to have pulled out of a planned live interview with the radio station LBC.

The party has said it would cut social security spending by a further £12 billion a year if re-elected, but has yet to say how it will find most of these “savings”.

Disability News Service has already reported how the Tories declined invitations to take part in three national disability-related hustings events organised by the Alliance for Inclusive Education, Learning Disability Alliance England, and the British Deaf Association.

  • User Ratings (13 Votes)
  • Lori Homayon-jones

    lovely perhaps he could also tell people where all the mental health professionals are

  • Mark Barker

    Ok, so first they cut the funding to the mental health services making it harder for people to get access to adequate treatment when they want and need it now they’re going to put more strain on both the people and the underfunded mental health services? I fail to see how this make any type of sense?! Not to mention you can’t force someone that has mental health issues to just simply get better because you tell them to timing can mean so much if you push someone too hard too soon nothing good will come of it. Things take time and if rushed you will end up doing way more harm than good and may well in the long run cost the mental health services far more money, not to mention the far more important cost that will be paid in peoples lives when the stress gets too much for them as their life lines are taken away from them bit by bit. I hate how the “in” thing at the moment is to simply pick on those least able to defend themselves or make their voices heard while at the same time there are programs on like benefits Britain that are purposely trying to demonize anyone on benefits so that most people won’t care as the lifelines that are put in place for their own care are taken away one by one =(

    • Mwxxx .

      All this ‘Vulnerable Adult Abuse’ is of course nothing to do with mental health. It’s just what they do when they’re not buggering care home children.
      They get themselves off on it… and blag taxpayers cash for doing it…

  • phil

    state enforced ect coming up then?

  • lucius-cornelius

    As long as they distinguish between those who refuse treatment and those for whom treatment fails.
    Somehow I doubt they’ll be that honest.

  • Rob

    They are on an ideological mission to have the Britain public subservient to their selfish Victorian morality and values. Compassion and empathy are just annoying words to these heartless souls.
    They won’t stop unless the public stop them, one way to halt their social cleansing of the most vulnerable in society, is to take them to court collectively or as individuals on charges of reckless endangerment, culpable homicide, manslaughter or crimes against humanity.

  • lambdoid

    The treatments that I have received for mental health problems have made me worse, which is why I refuse to take them. I have found alternatives which are somewhat effective and have never been suggested by any doctor that has been responsible for treating me.

    There have been studies that show that anti-psychotics increase the risk of psychosis in the long term and also increase mortality, and there is no proof that they’re actually doing what they claim to do, because the mechanisms for any serious mental health condition is unknown.

    The government don’t own me. I have the right to refuse medical treatment and any attempt to force me to take them would be considered a human rights violation by the UN and EU. This government must be opposed at every opportunity. Their policies are shallow, stupid, and vicious. They are destroying everything that is good about this country.