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.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been forced to apologise, after a bungling Job Centre official ordered a severely disabled man to attend an interview.
Nick Gaskin, 46, from Leicestershire, has been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and cannot walk, talk or even feed himself.
Despite needing round the clock care, Mr Gaskin was asked by letter to attend an appointment at the Loughborough Job Centre on 22 July. The letter stated: “You and your personal advisor will discuss the possibility of going into paid work, training for work, or looking for work in the future.”
Nick’s furious wife, Tracy, contacted the Job Centre office to explain that Nick had been in receipt of disability benefits for 16 years, only to be told that he was still required to attend.
Tracy told the Leicester Mercury: “Nick communicates by blinking for yes and no. He has a good life but it is ludicrous to get a letter like this and to have to attend an appointment.
“When I called the number on the letter the person said if we couldn’t get to the centre perhaps there could be a telephone interview.
“Nick can’t speak, the man obviously hadn’t been listening to me.”
She added: “This is a pointless interview and a waste of everyone’s time and resource. There has got to be a better way. Why can’t we produce written evidence?”
Another one of those stupid articles about how applicants are supposed to be sparkling and thinking outside the box, when all they’re applying for is some low-paid menial rubish job they’d rather not be doing if they weren’t desperate. However, it does give some insight into the mindset of interviewers…
Turning an eager candidate into a sobbing shadow of a human being isn’t the outcome most interviewers are going for. Most recruiters agree you get more out of a candidate if they’re at their ease and feeling relatively comfortable.
That said, a fresh line of enquiry can be like a cool drink of water for the frazzled recruiter.
We asked a host of seasoned interviewers for their most revealing quirky questions.
1. If I gave you £1 million, what would you do?
Terry Koutsios, CEO and founder of skills and services marketplace fivesquid.com.
Terry commented: “It’s unexpected – and a great way of testing ambition, personality and creativeness.”
> My answer : I’d vanish with the money, leaving only the cryptic message ; “stuff you and your shit job”.
2.If you had a cinema for one day only, from 6am to midnight – and you could do anything with it – what would you do to make it earn the most revenue?
Rana Harvey, managing director of Monster Group (UK)
Rana commented: “It’s designed to see if people can think out of the box. The best ones use the cinema all day, but also maximise on selling advertising.
“Creative ideas have included hiring beauticians to offer full makeovers, converting to a disco at night, with movie rooms. The worst ones just focus on films.”
> My answer : since you stipulate I could do anything with it, I’d run a festival of horror, science fiction, b-movies and other interesting films. Admission would be 50p to the unemployed, a fiver to everyone else. So it doesn’t generate revenue ? Tough. not everything can be reduced to pennies and pounds.
Now lets see : Carnival Of Souls, Fall Of The House of Usher, Creature From The Haunted Sea, Plan 9 From Outer Space, If, Performance, Legend Of Hell House, A Clockwork Orange, This Is England…
3. What do children like about you?
Nearly nine out of ten adverts on job portals fail to adhere to minimum Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) requirements, according to the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB).
The advice charity warns that 88% of these adverts are wasting the time of thousands of job seekers struggling to find employment.
Vague job adverts are omitting vital information about wages and hours, says the CAB.
This leaves job seekers unable to determine whether a job will pay well enough to put food on the table and settle household bills.
Poor information could increase the likelihood of unsuitable applicants and risk putting people off from applying.
An article in the latest edition of the British Medical Journal condemns the ‘coercive and punitive’ use of psychological tests and training on benefits claimants, as the DWP moves closer to treating unemployment as a mental health issue. Claimants are even being forced to attend highly questionable Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) workshops.
Power of positive thinking
The authors of the report look at the misuse of psychology and the role of psychology professionals in helping to force claimants on the work programme into mandatory training and unpaid work.
In particular, claimants are encouraged to believe that they are unemployed because of their own shortcomings, especially a failure to think positively and strive to be better.
Those who do not engage with psychological programmes can find their JSA or ESA sanctioned for ‘lack of motivation’.
As a result of this approach, claimants are bombarded with positive thinking messages not only on training courses but also by daily texts and emails, such as:
Nobody ever drowned in sweat
Go hard, or go home
It’s always too soon to quit
The sin isn’t falling down but staying down
Success is the only option
Smile at life
This can be the greatest, most fulfilling day you’ve ever known. For that to happen, you have to allow it
Some claimants, however, far from feeling uplifted by these ‘motivational quotes’ have described feeling anger, humiliation and depression. For claimants with serious health conditions, exhortations such as “Nobody ever drowned in sweat” could even be life-threatening.
Volunteers say their anti-unemployment service will be back up and running within days after being offered a new home by the GMB union.
The Newcastle and Gateshead Centre Against Unemployment, which for more than 35 years had provided advice on benefits and jobs to thousands of people on Tyneside, closed at the end of November last year amid a bitter row with its Cloth Market “landlords.”
But now the organisation hopes to bounce back with a six month stay at the GMB’s Mosely Street offices – and efforts continue to find it a more permanent home.
Streatham Jobcentre is to become the home of Iain Duncan Smith’s first Re-Education Centre where teams of gormless Jobcentre workers, psychiatrists, social workers and voluntary sector busy-bodies will team up to bully people with a mental health condition into low paid shit jobs as part of their ‘recovery’.
The South London Jobcentre already contains a Living Well Community Hub* where “specialist mental health services operating alongside Jobcentre Plus staff are working together towards a common goal of improving health and well-being and helping people to get back to, or stay in, work.” This is to be joined by a new Increased Access to Psychological Therapy (IAPT) team who, along with Jobcentre staff, will attempt to fix unemployed people with Cognitive Behavior Therapy and when that doesn’t work probably just stop their benefits.
With forced psychological treatment already threatened for those claiming social security, and moves to increase information…
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I asked the Jobcentre to let me have work experience there so I could dig up some dirt on the DWP. I did the work experience in another JCP in a different area from 9th March 2015 to 26th March 2015. All names are changed.
Alarm bells started to ring before I’d even started the placement. As I read the training material I overheard a man getting referred to the decision-maker for not applying for jobs. For the first job, there was no bus to get there on time. The other job he didn’t apply for required qualifications he didn’t have.
At about 10:15 on the first day of my work experience (Tuesday 10th March 2015) administrator Pammy said shows like Benefits Britain make her angry because those programmes depict JCP staff as “ogres” but it’s the benefits claimants who are lazy. “They were sanctioned for a reason,” she kept saying.
Pammy said the show had portrayed a lone mum with three kids who was sanctioned and now dependent on a food bank. The woman said she was feeding her kids out of the freezer but didn’t have enough frozen food to feed them. Pammy called her “lazy” and said she should “buy fresh food then” and that she obviously “has an attitude problem.”
During my time in the Jobcentre I saw numerous examples of staff insensitivity towards ESA claimants and customers who were ill. An ESA claimant came in asking why he hadn’t been paid. It turned out that his benefits had been stopped because he hadn’t got a ‘sick line’ (note of unfitness for work) from his GP to prove he was still unfit for work.
In response to my question about why he was on ESA, Pammy said he might be depressed. She said this is a “lazy attitude” but that now his benefit is stopped then he’ll go because he wants benefits. She kept repeating this point, convinced that benefits were the only thing that motivated depressed people (or Jobcentre customers generally).
Another morning, a JSA claimant told me she was now sanctioned and applying for hardship funds. She’d been ill and missed a Jobcentre appointment. She had phoned the doctor and went to get sick note the next day but her GP wouldn’t give her one because they didn’t see her the day she was ill, so she was sanctioned.
A man who was claiming JSA came into the Jobcentre to explain that he didn’t sign-on on Friday because he went to a funeral. Pammy said he would “probably” be referred to a decision-maker and maybe he’d get sanctioned. She also criticised him for waiting until 1pm the next working day (Monday) to inform the Jobcentre instead of telling them on Friday, the day of the funeral.
G4S security guard (‘Customer Care Officer’) Bob pointed out a customer to me and claimed he was a lost cause. He said some claimants would “like you to think [they’re looking for work]” but they aren’t, and he “will never get a job, who would hire him, would you give him a job?” Bob then suggested “They should just be wiped out, we shouldn’t have to deal with them”.
Read rest of article here –
Both the Daily Mail and The Express have run the same triumphant story today claiming that the number of job vacancies has now outstripped the number of unemployed people. According to the Daily Mail there are now over one million job vacancies and just under 800,000 jobseekers. Even for the Mail this is a staggering untruth.
The latest Labour Force Survey, conducted by the Officie for National Statistics (ONS), revealed that there are currently 1.83 million officially unemployed people, over double the amount reported by the Daily Mail. In addition to this there are over 2 million people who are ‘economically inactive’ and want a job but do not meet the strict definition of unemployment set by…
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An amputee searching for a work says he was made to feel “deflated” when he was left stranded after being called to a meeting at a North East Jobcentre.
Graeme Moore, who lost his left leg to a nerve-damaging disease, was optimistic when he was invited to South Shields Jobcentre, for talks about a place on a course in sports development.
The 53-year-old has been out of work since having to give up his job as a swimming coach so he could adapt to his new life as an amputee.
But his optimism turned to despair after he arrived at the centre, in Chapter Row, South Shields, last month.
He was informed the meeting was on the first floor – and that there was no public lift.
Mr Moore managed to get up the stairs, but that left him in “excruciating pain”, he says.
He says it was only when he raised the problem with staff on the first floor that he was told there was a staff lift he could have used.
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