A major shake-up in the welfare system could have a “quite devastating” impact on people with fragile mental health, it has been claimed.

A report to the board of the Sussex Partnership Foundation Trust said that some people will need more support to prevent their mental health relapsing and special care to cope with the “very threatening” changes.

It also acknowledged that the changes may help others with mental health problems succeed in finding employment, provided the jobs are suitable.

Report author Richard Ford, executive commercial director at the trust, said: “For people with mental health, learning disability and substance misuse problems, the proposed welfare reforms will probably have greater impact than any other changes.

“These people have faced stigma and discrimination when trying to find or stay in employment.

“They have also found the process of moving from benefits to work very difficult to manage and anxiety provoking.

“Many will find changes to the welfare system very threatening. Some people will have disabilities that mean they cannot work and they will wonder if they will no longer be eligible for benefits.

“However, the proposed changes could be excellent news if people who face significant prejudice and discrimination are at last helped to get jobs that they want.

“This will have big benefits for their mental health, feelings of self-worth, inclusion and economic wellbeing. There is plenty of evidence that work is good for your health.

“Changes to housing benefits may well mean that people have to move and there could be an influx of people who claim benefits into areas of cheaper rented accommodation.”

He added that the changes will be welcomed by many “as long as suitable, often entry level, employment is available”.

Dr Ford continued: “Employers will need support to realise the benefits of recruiting from a more diverse labour market.

“Sussex Partnership will play its part working with other agencies to help those affected by welfare changes avoid knock-on detrimental impact on their mental health.

“The proposed changes to the welfare system will be excellent news for some but possibly quite devastating for others.”