Thousands of unemployed people are suffering acute mental health problems due to highly insensitive treatment by Jobcentre plus in Bournemouth and Atos the regulators of the personal Independence Payment. (PIP).

Benefit claimants particularly in the Boscombe area say they suffer from high levels of anxiety and worry because of things like the threat of sanctions, most of which are because of minor misdemeanours such as being 5 minutes late.

Some are already diagnosed with mental health problems and are readmitted to hospital due to the stress caused by the threats.

Local Councillors from Boscombe West Ward both Labour and the Conservatives agree that the situation is scandalous.

Labour Councillor, Lewis Alison, said: “It’s horrendous. I’ve seen so many reports over the last couple of years where Universal Credit hasn’t succeeded in replacing the benefits that ended.”

Even local Conservative councillor Jane Kelly agreed that the treatment of claimants is not acceptable. She said: “if any of my residents were experiencing these problems I’d be very upset.”

She added: “Because it shouldn’t be happening, it really shouldn’t.”

People affected range from those seeking employment to the Disabled, of which many are being refused PIP as they are wrongly deemed fit to work.

Information from Citizens Advice Bournemouth confirms the problem. In just one three month period 1,391 people complained of benefit and tax issues while a further 659 had problems with universal credit.

In fact Welfare benefits are one of the biggest areas of enquiry CAB have to deal with.

They say that hundreds have to rely on food banks while many others suffer from debt with the most vulnerable, such as those with mental health issues, are the worst affected.

They claim that a lot of health assessments are incorrect and lead to people losing their benefits

These facts about unemployed people are contrary to popular and media opinion which seems to be accepted as fact that claimants abuse the system.

One reason explaining the unemployed crisis also is contrary to media and popular opinion. Nelly Keshwaa careers manager for ‘Springboard’ a charity that helps people back to work through into the hospitality industry (The second largest industry in the country) said: “In the hospitality industry there are about 160,000 skills shortages.”

The fact that the Job centre refers scores of people their way is indicative of the unemployed’s will to work and leaves in doubt the jobcentres overzealous policies of pushing people into to unsuitable work. Work that would be detrimental to their health and that toes the Government line that claims that the unemployed don’t want to work.

In depth studies of thousands of people have shown this to be the exception rather than the rule.

One such study found that unemployed people were 2 t o 3 times more likely to commit suicide than those in employment and states the main cause being the popular stigma and low self esteem caused, they say, by media coverage.

One such study on a worldwide basis was carried out in Switzerland at the University of Zurich. They found a strong association between suicide and unemployment and on average 45,000 suicides a year.

The medical profession in the UK also agrees. Newcastle G.P. Guy Pilkington said: “For me the biggest (change) is the ease with which claimants can fall into a Victorian style system that allows you to starve. That’s really shocking and that’s new.”

The shocking height of the problems was stressed by lead researcher Mandy Cheeton who after hearing the distressing stories from claimants she felt the urgent need to undertake a suicide prevention course half way through the research.

The people, who it is claimed are responsible for the problems, I.E. the jobcentre plus and the politicians, I.E. Tobias Ellwood, MP for Bournemouth East, suspiciously did not reply to numerous emails and letters. Indicating a lack of concern or having something to hide.

Universal Credit it is said by public health officials to ‘seriously undermine efforts to prevent ill health in deprived areas such as Boscombe.’

Alison Wiseman, director of public health for Gateshead Council, said: “I consider Universal Credit in the context of wider austerity as a threat to the public health.”

Gerald Gilbert

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