Cost of living: Welfare system must truly care for people beyond current crisis

26 May 2022

The government today announced a package of measures to support people amid a cost of living crisis.

Mark Winstanley, Chief Executive of Rethink Mental Illness, said:

“The cost of living crisis has had a devastating effect on households across the UK. But as is often the case in times of crisis, it is the poorest and most disadvantaged who have taken the biggest hit, including people who are severely affected by mental illness and unable to work as a result.

“We warmly welcome the measures announced by the government today to help some of the poorest in society, which are much needed and will go some way to helping people survive in the coming months. However, it’s important to recognise it will still leave many people severely affected by mental illness unable to pay for the bare essentials.

“The welfare system should not only care during times of national crisis and following intense, unyielding pressure from the public. Like the NHS, the welfare system was set up to provide people with support whenever they need it. Yet the daily, grinding anxiety over the cost of living is not a new phenomenon – for many, this has been an ever-present reality for a long time before the current crisis.

“Right now, the welfare system is not fit for purpose. There have been too many tragic cases of people dying or being seriously harmed linked to the benefits system. The government recently announced plans to restart the ‘managed migration’ of people from legacy benefits to Universal Credit. Those who can’t engage with this process before the deadline due to their disability could see their benefits stopped. And it was recently revealed that Universal Credit sanctions are reaching record levels. As we know by now, it can be life-threatening when benefits are cut. Both the managed migration and sanctions should be paused during the current crisis, and in the long-term, we need a welfare system which truly cares.”

Read more about the government's new proposals to support people during the cost of living crisis