As a GP, psychiatric nurse, psychiatrist or psychologist it is likely you will hear from patients who struggle with work and financial stability. Similarly, those with long-term mental health conditions often have periods where work is harder to sustain. Therefore, having knowledge around what people who have a mental health condition are entitled to, either as a service user or practitioner, is valuable.
Why might some people with a mental health condition need financial support?
Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is a benefits scheme designed for people who have a long-term physical or mental health condition or disability. This is especially important for people with long-term mental health issues, as often they struggle with everyday tasks or working.
PIP, which is assigned by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), uses ‘daily living’ and ‘mobility’ as two measures for how much a mental health condition impedes on or affects your life. You can still receive PIP if you work, are on other benefits, and if you have savings, instead the important part of the assessment for PIP is about how difficult the tasks that fall under ‘daily living’ and ‘mobility’ are. For each task, the DWP looks at:
- whether you can do it safely
- how long it takes you
- how often your condition affects this activity
- whether you need help to do it, form a person or using extra equipment
Previously, the guidelines for the DWP published on the gov.uk website, left room for misinterpretation. For example, claimants with chronic depression who are not receiving any medication, might be misunderstood as not having their daily life affected by their condition.
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Now, the DWP has updated their guidance for health professionals who are carrying out PIP assessments. These updated guidelines includes details on audio recording face-to-face and phone consultations, improved guidance on determining the significance of whether or not a claimant with a mental health condition is receiving medication, and also highlights the need for assessors to take into account the use of talking therapies over medication.
The guidance states:
“When considering mental health medication HPs [Health Professionals] should remember that not all claimants with a mental health condition will be on medication or receiving therapy. Severity of a mental health condition does not necessarily correspond with the type or dosage of medication that the claimant is receiving.”
It then goes onto clarify this statement further, stating that “Absence of medication does not automatically mean that the health condition is not severe. However, HPs should consider the type and context of certain medications, for example use of depot antipsychotic injections in psychotic disorders.”
Finally, the guidance also emphasises the need for health practitioners (HPs) to understand how different mental health medication is used, as well as a preference for talking therapies:
“HPs should also take into account that some medications are used to treat different conditions, for example some antidepressants are also licenced to treat anxiety. HPs must also consider the use of other treatments such as psychological therapies.”
How can healthcare and mental healthcare practitioners help people with long-term mental health conditions to feel more financially stable?
Anxiety and stress around finances can be overwhelming, especially if a person already had mental health issues they are dealing with. Many people in the public don’t actually know that there is a benefits scheme designed for those who maybe struggle with daily life a bit more, because of their long-term mental health condition.
For some people, speaking to a doctor, psychiatric nurse or psychiatrist might be the only time they openly discuss their mental health. As such, distributing this knowledge to patients who need it, as well as possibly being there to give advice etc. about completing an assessment for PIP is potentially a small but vital way to improve the lives of those living with a mental health condition.