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Tory minister claims mentally ill better for working

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Gauke defends sanction regime

People living with mental illness are better off working and current Tory welfare reforms are helping them do so, the pensions’ secretary has claimed.

David Gauke said that although the government hasn’t “always got it right” those made to work boosted their confidence and outlook – including those living with mental illness - and that sanctions were helping them into work.

Speaking on BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show, Gauke tackled criticism of sanctions head on, saying: “One of the reasons why I think we have got higher levels of employment is because we place conditions on people; that changes behaviour and that helps people get into work.

“That’s not to say that there aren’t hard cases, cases where we get it wrong – we want to work very hard to eliminate that.

“But I would defend the principle of saying – if we are going to give money to people, to actually lift people out of poverty on a sustainable basis – it’s not just about giving them money, it’s also about saying, ‘What can we do and what can you do to get you into work?’.”

Sanctions involve the reduction or suspension of payments because a claimant has not met conditions for receiving the benefit, such as attending jobcentre appointments.

Critics blame sanctions for forcing the poor, the ill and disabled in society into debt and risk of homelessness. And experts warn that sanctions system could damage the mental health of claimants.

On this point Gauke said: “I’m not going to pretend that we have always got this right in every individual case.

“But we do know that getting people into work, giving people the benefit of working, the structure that provides, the self-esteem that that provides, work can really help mental health as well, and we shouldn’t pretend otherwise.”

He added: “The task for us is to ensure that we have an increasingly personalised welfare state, a system that properly understands the circumstances individuals are in.”