Mental health treatment in the Job Centre – what could possibly go wrong?

Contract Finder - Online CBT

A Mental Health task force set up by Nick Clegg has decided to subject people on benefits to mental health treatment at the Job Centre.

Out of all the possible environments for mental health treatment, the Job Centre could the worst.

The treatment will take the form of talking therapy and computer-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. A posting on the governments’s Contracts Finder website reveals that the DWP intend to spend £21 million on the online CBT. It is not clear how much they intend to spend on human therapists, where they think they can get them, or whether they will actually have training and experience to do the job.

There are so many problems with this scheme that it is hard to know where to start. The biggest problem I can see is that there can be no meaningful consent to treatment in the context of the Job Centre. Where once the Job Centre was there to help people to find a job, these days it is more known for ruthless sanctions and cutting off benefits for whatever trivial excuse they can come  up with. If Job Centre staff tell someone that they need mental health treatment it will be backed up with words such as “your benefits may be affected if you do not attend” which is a barely-veiled threat that they apply to most “voluntary” tasks that they inflict on people.

The regime of sanctions and workfare means that the Job Centre is a direct cause of much mental illness among people on benefits. I cannot see anyone wanting to reveal this to any therapist in the Job Centre even if absolute confidentiallity is promised. There is too much danger of it leaking to vindictive staff who are eager to hit their targets for sanctions.

Computer-based CBT could be even worse. CBT does not work for everyone and there is a chance that staff will use failure to get better as an indication that someone is not trying, and an excuse to cut their benefits. CBT often makes people worse before they get better and it is not something that should be done in a public place where there is little chance of privacy. It could leave people in a raw emotional state and vulnerable while out in public, or the setting may prevent people from engaging at all. Indeed, the suspicion will be that Job Centre staff will monitor progress just like they monitor the Universal Job Match system.Whether true or not, that will be a barrier to a lot of people.

This whole scheme seems to have been set up with the primary aim not of improving mental health, but of getting people in to a job. There is no indication of how the DWP will treat people whose mental health does not improve enough to get a job, or even get worse. Clegg’s mental health task force seems to have no clue about the reality of unemployment, poverty or illness. Had they asked anyone in this situation they would have been told that this plan will be damaging, not helpful.

If there is money available – and seemingly, there is at least £57 million available – why on earth isn’t it being spent within the NHS to undo some of the savage cuts that have taken place? Lots of people including myself have been desperate to get proper talking therapy from the NHS for years but unable to do so. Tories and LibDems seem desperate to force unsuitable treatment without consent on people on benefits instead of properly funding NHS services. This scheme is a useless bandage on the gaping wound inflicted by this government and it will do more damage than it helps repair.

Related Links

Clegg announces plan for job centre mental health treatment scheme

Nick Clegg holds first meeting of mental health taskforce

Contracts Finder: Online Supported Cognitive Behavioural Therapy


Author: Latentexistence

The world is broken and I can't fix it because I am broken. I can, however, rant about it all and this is where I do that when I can get my thoughts together. Most of the time you'll find my words on Twitter rather than here though. I sometimes write for Where's The Benefit too.

12 thoughts on “Mental health treatment in the Job Centre – what could possibly go wrong?”

  1. Its not about getting people into work, its about getting people off benefits.

    If the person “helped” by some cobbled together cbt nicked from real published works decides to kill themselves their corpse can be moved from the “jobless” column to the “positive benefit outcome” column; should they go postal in the sanction centre then they can be locked up and/or bared from JCP which again moves them to the “positive benefit outcome” column.

  2. I despair – how anyone can be treated by someone who has no experience and has not been trained in mental health is beyond me. We are talking of something so delicate as the mind here, yet this coalition see it as just a phase which can be put right with a quick fix of either seeing someone for a couple of visits, or a computer telling them they can go back to work.
    The money should be going to the NHS who have properly trained staff and who are overloaded with trying to help as many people as they can.

  3. I got bullied on the job bus in stone a few years ago, I was made to talk about being raped as a child, with the door open so other people could hear it and I ended up in a heap on the way home and a lady from a church nearby helped me.staff at job centres aren’t trained to help mentally ill people, it isn’t my fault I am in a mess now, if it’s anyone’s fault its the police, for covering up pindown institutional child abuse I would like to work but I find it a huge struggle some days just to stop crying because I don’t fit in to anything and don’t even feel like a member of the human race some days

  4. They will always be healthcare professionals like cleaners or porters or possibly consultants such as phlebotomists or reception staff who have all undergone extensive training for 2 full day and got a certificate

  5. The primary aim of the scheme is to direct money to our generous friends in Serco, ATOS, or one of the dubious training consultancied that seem to be running JobCentrePlus® franchises in former DWP offices.

    At a local level, the secondary objective will, as you have pointed out, be to provide further openings for vindictive staff to misuse the sanctions regime.

    Make no mistake: this is not ‘misconduct’ by the induviduals who commit such acts; this implements an explicit policy goal, it is rewarded, it is a reliable route to promotion, and those who do not actively collaborate in the punitive regime are being managed out. There are still some DWP offices where this is not the case: but their managers are not progressing in their careers are being sidelined. Worse still, a ‘failing’ office is a target for franchising-out to a commercial service provider. In five years’ time, all the frontline staff remaining will be the succesful participants in the world’s largest peacetime reenactment of the Stanford Prison Experiment.

  6. It’s just more fraud based pseudoscience quackery. Like their unqualified “biopsychosocial” quacks at atos/maximarse (nurses with zero professional mental health qualifications).
    Not that the ones with ahem ‘professional’ mental health qualifications are any better, from my experience of them… The only people they ahem ‘cure’ are those faking it until they get insurance cash.
    Avoid their ‘therapy’ like the plague, unless you are happy to have your entire private life made freely available to thousands of public sector ‘people’ without your knowledge or consent.
    What next – quacks like homeopaths and chiropractors? give me a glass of water or a back rub and I’m ‘cured’ too… Or is that just giving them ideas….

    For some useful information google phrases like –
    “vulnerable adult abuse” , “fraud act 2006” and “misconduct in public office”

  7. Huh…who knew the state of mental heath services in England could get *more* terrifying?

Comments are closed.