The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is making plans to effectively harass social security claimants during NHS treatments. It comes on top of pre-existing co-working between the department and the NHS. And it also shows that the Tories are still pursuing the ‘back to work’ ideology used by successive governments against chronically ill and disabled people – despite the potential harm.
DWP: infecting the NHS
The Times reported that the DWP is considering:
ways to incorporate “work incentives” into some mental health treatment, and looking at ways that those with low-level conditions who could work can be helped back into work via treatment.
For those who are long-term sick, we have to work with the Health Department and employers and look at occupational health and very different approaches.
Further to this, the Times noted that the department is considering:
One possibility… that people referred for certain mental health treatments could be incentivised to go to a work coach afterwards, though this work is understood to be less advanced.
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In other words, if the NHS refers you for something like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for depression and you’re currently claiming sickness social security, a medical professional will push you to go and see a DWP work coach as part of your treatment.
Co-working – nothing new
This co-working between the NHS and the DWP isn’t new. As the Canary previously reported, the idea came from the last Labour government. However, it was the Tory-led government that properly rolled this co-working out in 2014. As the Canary wrote, it did this via:
the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) scheme. This is where the DWP co-works with the NHS, by putting Jobcentre staff into therapy settings.
The government also extended this to so-called Individual Placement and Support (IPS) services, with the aims of:
- Offering job finding advice.
- Supporting patients’ job interview preparation.
- Speaking to potential employers about a patient’s mental health.
Theses services now exist in NHS trusts across England. However, people are critical of the NHS being anywhere near the DWP.
Tories: ‘fulfilling the neoliberal dream’?
Mental health services are chronically underfunded. By ring-fencing new money for employment specialists, we reinforce the message work is the central goal of a meaningful life. This increases the shame, guilt and anxiety disabled people already feel. Even more so under a welfare system that equates worklessness with worthlessness. It is exacerbating mental health problems…
However, in recent years, policy has focused on returning as many patients to work as possible. This ‘back to work’ obsession places huge demand on patients to fulfil the neoliberal dream. One whereby health is linked to how much one can contribute to the public purse. But this is foreclosing the reality of long-term disability… So we must refuse the insistence that work is a meaningful health outcome in mental health services. We must instead recommit to patient (not government) centred care.
Now, it seems that the DWP and government want to further exacerbate the erosion of patient-centred care in the NHS. Overall, as the Canary previously wrote:
ultimately, what we’re seeing is a systematic plan by the DWP and the NHS. They’re tag-teaming, trying to get claimants/patients off benefits and into work… the DWP and NHS are also co-working in other areas already; for example, trying to “coerce” GPs into saying that their sick and disabled patients are fit-for-work.
NHS workers and trade unions should oppose any plans to further integrate the health service with the DWP – and social security claimants should approach this with caution.
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