Guest Blog by Mo Stewart
Dear Christian van Stolk
Re: Psychological Wellbeing and Work
Please excuse this unsolicited contact by an independent researcher in Cambridge.
I have read with interest the Psychological Wellbeing and Work report, as conducted by RAND Europe and funded by the Contestable Policy Fund and, FYI, please be advised that I am a former healthcare professional in my previous career.
I shall copy in the Secretary of State for Health, who now leads on mental health, and his Shadow together with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and his Shadow.
Now in my 8th year of independent research into the ongoing welfare reforms in the UK, as guided by neoliberal politics and strongly influenced by American social security policies which have had a detrimental impact on claimants, may I please draw your attention to the book ‘Cash Not Care: the planned demolition of the UK welfare state’, which has achieved critical acclaim since its publication in September 2016.
To that end, may I suggest you invite access to the research by contacting my publisher and inviting a review copy of the book.
This recent book review may be helpful: http://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/disabled-researchers-book-exposes-corporate-demolition-of-welfare-state/
It is cause for continued concern that major DWP policies, often negatively impacting on the wellbeing of some very ill and vulnerable people, are invariably introduced using research commissioned by the DWP, whilst disregarding the vast catalogue of distinguished research evidence as provided by a variety of academic experts when not commissioned by the DWP and whose funding is not linked to political ideology. Please see attached examples of academic excellence.
It is noted that your report refers to ‘work’, which exclusively identifies with paid employment and disregards the beneficial nature enjoyed by an army of volunteers in the UK, many of whom are chronically ill or profoundly disabled and for whom a return to paid employment is neither practical nor inducive to their wellbeing. As a volunteer, it is possible to benefit from a working environment with colleagues and a purpose when well enough and enjoying a ‘good day’. There is no-one to make accusations when too ill to leave the house, with a diagnosed condition that will never improve regardless of DWP intimidation and threats.
In keeping with reported comments by David Freud, all DWP commissioned research seems to presume that anyone in receipt of out-of-work disability benefits should have access to the benefits for the short-term, with no acknowledgement at all that many, many health conditions are permanent, cannot improve especially with endless intimidation and coercion by the DWP, and that there is no evidence whatsoever other than totally discredited DWP commissioned research of the claimed one million people on out-of-work disability benefit who should or could return to work.
It is also noted that a report identified as ‘Psychological Wellbeing and Work’ disregards the ongoing identified preventable harm created by the DWP, the relentless political manipulation of the public with claims for which there is no foundation, suggesting that 75% of claimants of out-of-work disability benefits are ‘inactive’, ‘bogus’, ‘idle’, ‘skiving’, ‘workshy’ and ‘scrounging’. This has created a situation where chronically ill people, who are not capable of paid employment, now live in fear of the DWP following relentless coercion and intimidation, aided by the national press, which led to a 213% increase in disability hate crimes in the UK during the Coalition government’s term in office, and genuine claimants now living in fear of applying for welfare funding to which they are entitled, to this nation’s everlasting shame.
There are now claimants who have starved to death in the UK, quite literally, as the unreserved and savage use of sanctions has been imposed by the DWP in an effort to force compliance of the unprecedented DWP welfare ‘reforms’ on those least able to protest.
The most vulnerable in society are paying a high price for the political ideology of neoliberalism, some with their lives.
Suicides and deaths are the tip of the iceberg of misery and suffering on an unimaginable scale experienced by those who
are physically or mentally unfit to work, as the government implements an increasingly punitive and authoritarian regime
against benefit claimants. Vulnerable people are left destitute by sanctions that suspend or end their benefits if they fail
to comply with orders to attend ‘assessments’, ‘training courses’, or submit the required number of job applications.
Psycho politics, neoliberal governmentality and austerity
Self & Society Journal
Volume 44, 2016 – Issue 4
Perhaps, when considering future interventions for mental health, Consultant Psychologists and Psychiatrists who are not politically motivated could be consulted as they actually have clinical experience of working with ‘common mental health’ problems, which should not imply that they are not serious problems, and they are less inclined to have the welfare budget as their top priority as opposed to the wellbeing of often very ill patients.
It seems unlikely that more coercion by Jobcentre Plus and the DWP, when masquerading as psychological support, is likely to benefit sufferers of mental ill health, who are not known to respond well to relentless intimidation with endless threats of sanctions and the possibility of starvation close to their lived experience.
The travesty of this ongoing government imposed human suffering, where chronically ill people in receipt of welfare benefits are presumed to be bogus, was adopted due to the introduction of neoliberal politics, the outsourcing to private companies very lucrative DWP contracts and the failure to audit the contracts. Chronically ill people have suffered and died due to political ideology that is unrelated to the health or the welfare of the claimants, and was motivated by the desire to reduce welfare costs regardless of human consequences. The fact that the DWP have refused to publish updated mortality totals of those who have died following the totally discredited Work Capability Assessment may alert you to the ongoing problems, as faced by those least able to defend themselves against this ideological assault.
I would alert you to the fact that a great deal of the identified increased mental health problems are due entirely to the DWP policies of recent years, where all chronically ill and disabled people in need of welfare benefits are presumed to be bogus unless proven otherwise, the constant savage rhetoric in the national press, the increases in disability hate crimes and the fact that the British public have been successfully misdirected on route to the UK eventually adopting private healthcare insurance to replace the welfare state.
Your research will no doubt benefit administrators in the DWP and the DoH, but will not benefit anyone suffering from a common mental health problem as enforced ‘therapy’ may well now be added to their many burdens for the enormous crime of being too ill to work. The fact that what was once guaranteed and vital financial support has been removed actually guaranteed an increase in the onset of mental health problems, for those who are physically disabled as well as for those with a mental health diagnosis as their primary health problem.
I trust this information may be helpful.
Disabled veteran (WRAF)
Disability studies researcher
Retired healthcare professional