CLWYD SOUTH AM KEN SKATES has said changes to the welfare system were putting huge strains on mental health services in North Wales.
The AM said welfare cuts being put through by the UK Government were having a disproportionate impact on individuals with a mental health problem.
The AM, who also Chairs the Assembly’s All Party Group on Mental Health, said this was causing major pressures to be put on secondary mental health services in supporting people with their benefit claims and appeals.
It came as a report published by the Welsh Government estimated 42,500 people in Wales could lose their entitlement as a result of Welfare reform changes.
CLWYD SOUTH AM KEN SKATES said:
“The UK Government’s welfare reforms are hitting everyone very hard, but for those individuals in North Wales living with mental illness the stress and anxiety of benefit changes is having a truly devastating effect.
“Far from these changes saving money, other statutory health and social care services are having to pick up the cost by helping people with a mental health problem navigate the huge complexities in the new system.
“It becomes a vicious circle. Many people with mental health problems have the potential to get back into work but by having their benefits cut they can get into a downward spiral, making it less likely they will find a job.
“I have had people come into my constituency surgery looking for help who are recovering well from a mental illness but are relapsing as a result of the anxieties and pressures from receiving DWP letters and the requirement to attend Work Capability Assessments.
“It means community mental health teams are seeing a steep rise in the work they have to do whilst at the same time seeing their budgets shrink. Specialist welfare advice services, too, are being squeezed at the very time they are needed the most.
“In short, the UK Government can claim big savings as a result of its welfare reform agenda, but the truth is it is the NHS in North Wales and local social services departments that are having to pick up the tab.”
Cuts in benefits in Wales by 2014-2015 will total £590m, which equates to around £7.26 per family per week on average, roughly 1.5 per cent of their net income.
The Welsh Government report was released as part of an on-going three-stage review of the reforms as part of a Ministerial Task and Finish Group, which is chaired by Education Minister Leighton Andrews.
It said that families with children and those from low-middle income families are set to suffer the most from the changes, with cuts to Disability Living Allowance (DLA) accounting for some of the biggest cuts in Wales.
The Welsh Government said around 42,500 people in Wales were estimated to lose their entitlement as a result of this reform – an average loss of up to £83 per claimant per week and an annual loss of up to £183m in Wales as a whole.
The Welsh Government Reports on Welfare Reform can be found here: