THE so-called "bedroom tax", benefit sanctions, and other cuts
to social security have led to a spike in mental-health problems, a
number of researchers have said.
A new report The Psychological Impact of Austerity,
published earlier this month by the group Psychologists Against
Austerity, suggested that the Government's austerity programme had
caused psychological damage to those hit by the cuts.
The report lists five "austerity ailments": humiliation and
shame; fear and distrust; insecurity; isolation and loneliness; and
powerlessness. They are "indicators of problems in society, of
poisonous public policy, weakness of social cohesion, and
inequalities in power and wealth," it says.
Rhetoric about "skivers" and the "undeserving poor" have led to
humiliation among the poor, the psychologists argue. They also
point to research which suggests that "prolonged humiliation after
a severe loss can treble the chance of being diagnosed with
Similarly, austerity has led to rising distrust, isolation, and
insecurity in society, as state programmes are pared back, and
benefits and jobs become less reliable. All of this can increase
levels of mental-health problems, the report says.
The psychologists say that "austerity tears apart communities,
and reduces people's capacity to live well". They call for all
social policy to be drafted in light of its potential impact on
A separate study from Newcastle University looked in detail at
the impact of the "bedroom tax" - a cut in housing benefit for
those deemed to be under-occupying their homes. The lead
researcher, Dr Suzanne Moffatt, said that her study rejected the
Government's claim that the bedroom tax would have no negative
impact on people's well-being.
The research suggests that those hit by the bedroom tax are
finding it harder to afford their rent and food, which was causing
many to feel hopeless, and was affecting their mental health. The
study also suggested that the solutions to the housing-benefit cut
suggested by the Government - downsizing to a smaller property,
getting another job, or working longer hours - were largely
impossible in the north-east.
The research was funded by Newcastle City Council, whose deputy
leader, Joyce McCarthy, said: "[The bedroom tax] is creating a
sense of hopelessness, where people are struggling to eat and keep
warm in order to try and pay this tax to keep a roof over their
head; that is pernicious and inhumane, and it's hardly surprising
that it's affecting people's health."
The Department for Work and Pensions, however, said that the
research could not definitely say that the bedroom tax was the
cause of negative circumstances for each individual. A spokesman
for the DWP told The Guardian that the bedroom tax was
"restoring fairness to the system" and saving £1 million a day.