Recently, the MP for Hastings & Rye and current Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Amber Rudd has announced £100,000 investment to improve mental health in Cornwall. That sounds amazing, right? She is certainly spinning it in a positive way. This is, however, where the good news stops. What Amber Rudd is actually announcing is £100,000 to train work coaches, who see those claiming Universal credit, to assess the mental health of their clients so they can ‘avoid seeing their GP’.
Let’s break this down a bit and have a real hard look at it. Work coaches being trained to recognise mental health issues is absolutely positive. These staff members are not professionals though. They’re not qualified. Basic training is not enough to support those signed off of work due to mental health issues.
That’s not even mentioning the environment that these people are working in. As somebody who has received ESA, I’ve been inside these job centres. I’ve had the unpleasant experience of some of the comments staff think are appropriate whilst sobbing in front of them.
“Well, I have to be seen as doing something with you.”
Luckily, I only saw this man for one appointment before he moved on. I got a new work coach who has first-hand experience with mild mental health issues. She was lovely and she was supportive. It was still an unfit environment for the things that we’re discussing though. Firstly, I don’t want to talk about whether I’ve been struggling with suicidal thoughts at a desk with another claimant and staff member a metre away on each side. Secondly, signposting to services alone is not enough. I also need prescriptions. I need somebody with medical training who can do that.
Assessments by non-qualified staff, in an inappropriate environment, to encourage people not to see their doctors are wrong! It is dangerous and it is degrading. A qualified individual needs to carefully consider what the correct treatment for their patient is. They need to weigh up the risks vs the rewards. Dilligent monitoring needs to be in place.
This is being sold to us as a positive but the DWP has a track record when it comes to those who are most vulnerable. 17,000 claimants have died while waiting for decisions on their PIP. They have a track record of downplaying issues, flat out ignoring them. The entire system right now is not fit for purpose. The work capability assessments are unjust, cruel even. We are making the most vulnerable in our society more vulnerable. We are leaving behind those who most need our support.
You cannot lie to us, Amber Rudd. Your system is a failure. Universal Credit is a failure. Work capability assessments are a failure. We are not stupid, Amber. We see all of this. You want to play the caregiver, the good woman and somebody who is on our side but it is a lie and we will not be fooled.
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