Mental health workers and their clients are marching on a jobcentre in south-west London in protest at a scheme they say frames unemployment as a psychological disorder.
The Department for Work and Pensions announced in March that Streatham’s jobcentre would be the first to have therapists giving mental health support to help unemployed people back into work.
The DWP has now said that announcement was a mistake. But by coincidence, next week Lambeth council will open a £1.9m mental health clinic in the same building.
Mental health workers and service users, furious at what they see as an attempt to embed psychological treatment in a back-to-work agenda, were to go ahead with their demonstration anyway.
They said they regarded Lambeth’s decision to locate the borough’s main community mental health centre in the same building as the jobcentre as being in the spirit of the plan to give psychological treatment to the unemployed.
Anger has been growing since the March budget announced a scheme to bring counsellors into jobcentres to offer “integrated employment and mental health support to claimants with common mental health conditions”.
Under the plan, therapists from the NHS’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme would support jobcentre staff to assess and treat claimants, who may be referred to online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) courses.