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Monday, 25 August 2014

"'Welfare to work' pathways far from satisfactory for people with mental health problems" — IPPR

Swheatie of the KUWG reflects on a new report from a 'think-tank'

In its own words, "the IPPR, the Institute for Public Policy Research, is the UK's leading progressive think-tank." Well, they would say that, wouldn't they? For a slightly more impartial reference turn to Wikipedia:

IPPR (the Institute for Public Policy Research) is a thinktank based in the UK with a centre-left viewpoint. It was founded in 1988. It produces research and policy ideas committed to upholding values of social justice, democratic reform and environmental sustainability.
The founding director was James Cornford.[1] The current director is Nick Pearce,[2] a former Head of the No. 10 Policy Unit and special advisor to David Blunkett MP. Former members of staff include the current pensions minister Liberal Democrat MP Steve Webb and former Labour cabinet ministers Patricia Hewitt and David Miliband.
The Institute edits a quarterly journal called Juncture (formerly PPR and New Economy), published by Wiley-Blackwell, which features articles from academics and politicians.
IPPR is based in London and IPPR North has branches in Newcastle and Manchester. The organisation is an independent registered charity. Funding comes from the following:[3]
  • trust and foundation grants
  • European and international funds
  • central and local government funding
  • corporate, public sector and voluntary sector support
  • individual donors
While I would tend to regard those bods as right wing rather than left-wing, what they say up front in the blurb for this report suggests that even they don't reckon the assessments treat folk with mental health issues appropriately:

In safe hands? Evaluating employment pathways for ESA claimants with mental health problems

Published Wed 20 Aug 2014
This short briefing shines a spotlight on welfare-to-work pathways that are 'far from satisfactory' for people with mental health and behavioural problems.
    It is estimated that 1.9 million people are receiving ESA, rising to 2.4 million in 2015. However, people with mental health problems, who make up 40 percent of those going through the work capability assessment (WCA) process, are being let down by a system that appears to be neither effective nor accurate in determining the appropriate level of financial or employment support for claimants with mental health problems.     Equally, the system fails to provide the kind of support for claimants that is adequate or appropriate for people with mental health problems.
    This paper makes recommendations focusing on:
  • collecting additional information and evidence about people who might be disadvantaged by the level of self-reporting that the WCA requires
  • additional training for assessors and decision-makers before they are allowed to handle applicants with mental and behavioural health problems
  • continuous monitoring of how the WCA is conducted to mitigate negative effects on the wellbeing of participants with mental health problems.
Beyond these specific areas of improvement, we propose two principles for wider reform of employment assessment and support.
  • The WCA should be about assessing support needed for a person to work, not policing a gateway to benefits: despite the rhetoric, the WCA is still a test of what people can’t do, focused on benefits rather than employment.
  • Work support services should be about pursuing ‘supported employment’ strategies, not just supported job search: the current regime is too focused on labour market attachment, but other approaches are available, like the ‘place, train and retain’ approach used in Norway and Sweden.
I welcome the above summary as an aperitif to further study. As I am a person with very slow reading pace, I welcome the fact that the full report — available as a downloadable pdf document — is a mere eight pages long.

Yet I point out that the dodgy provenance of the Work Capability Assessment system is rooted in the outlook of American-based 'disability denial factory' — and 'disability insurer' Unum who have been 'advising' successive UK governments on 'welfare reform' since 1994, and Unum's 'bio-psychosocial model' of disability. Of that, Mo Stewart — a disabled war veteran turned researcher into how her own military disability pension from the UK's Ministry of Defence came to be adjudicated and downgraded by Atos Healthcare — wrote in a March 2013 research summary entitled 'The Hidden Agenda':

Of course, [the] destruction of the welfare state could never have been so readily achived without the unelected former Labour adviser, David Freud. He was ennobled to permit appointment initially to the Shadow Cabinet but, following the 2010 General Election, he was appointed as the Minister for Welfrare Reform for the Coalition where he has excelled. Indeed, one of Lord Freud's most recent claims was that: "Poor peope should be prepared to take more risks because they have the least to lose..." Clearly, this man is yet another millionaire Minister who demonstrates no concern, an no comprehension, of human need.
The ongoing DWP medical tyranny, masquerading as welfare reform, has permitted Atos Healthcare to conduct the WCA by employing the totally discredited Bio-Psychosocial (BPS) model of disability assessment that remains free from all public accountability according to the General Medical Council and the Care Quality Commission. The BPS is the assessment model as used by Unum Insurance when assessing healthcare insurance claims, and it is also the Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research at Cardiff University, initially sponsored by Unum Insurance from its inception in 2003 to 2009. However, prior to his move to the Centre, the Professor was the DWP's Chief Medical Officer who, in 1992, was in post when Unum Insurance was invited to become corporate 'advisers' to the UK government....
[With] the national press still refusing to expose the identified influence of Unum Insurance with the DWP welfare reforms, the British public remain in ignorance as the government covertly convert the UK welfare state into the American healthcare system, ultimately to be funded by private insurance. Meanwhile, Unum Insurance is happy to continue to offer new careers to former government 'advisers'.
So, this IPPR report that has been supported by input from mental health charity Mind is useful information that needs promoting to help counter public ignorance, but we must realise that the 'welfare reform' agenda is generally directed by those who are short on scruples and understanding, and blinkered by greed.

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