Open letter from the Mental Health Resistance Network
MARCH ON STREATHAM JOB CENTRE – FRIDAY 26TH JUNE, 1.30 pm
MEETING POINT: STREATHAM MEMORIAL GARDENS, STREATHAM HIGH ROAD/ STREATHAM COMMON NORTH, LONDON SW16
STREATHAM JOB CENTRE PLUS: CROWN HOUSE, STATION APPROACH, LONDON SW16 6HW
* A pilot project to bring CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) into Job Centres starts at Streatham Job Centre Plus in June 2015.
* In the same month, Lambeth “Living Well Hub” for Community Mental Health Services is due to open in the same building.
*Mental Health Resistance Network is unhappy with these developments which are part of the government’s brutal “back to work” agenda.
*Mental Health Resistance Network has called a demonstration which will march on Streatham Job Centre on Friday 26th June.
*Mental Health Resistance Network is circulating an open letter to relevant individuals, charities and professional organisations stating our position and asking them to join us in our condemnation for these developments.
Mental Health Resistance Network is organising a demonstration to take place at Streatham Job Centre Plus on Friday 26th June 2015, protesting against the opening there of Lambeth’s principal community mental health centre (“Living Well Network Hub”) the following Monday.
Streatham Job Centre also, from June 2015, hosts the first pilot of the DWP’s scheme to provide psychological therapies – specifically Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – at Job Centres for people suspected of having mental health problems. This is the first of ten pilot schemes in advance of a national project planned to begin in January 2016.
We are calling on you/ your organisation to state your position on these issues, and we hope join us in our condemnation of these developments.
As mental health service users, we are extremely unhappy with these developments. We deplore the government’s brutal “back to work” agenda, which is a front for cutting disabled welfare benefits for the most vulnerable. Mental health service users are understandably terrified of Job Centres and the threat of losing their benefits through Sanctions, or degrading and unfit-for-purpose Work Capability Assessments. With the main point of access to Community Mental Health services in Lambeth on the 3rd floor of a Job Centre, many of us will feel too frightened to ask for the help and services we need, and lose contact with services altogether.
Mental health service users are already reporting higher levels of fear, anxiety and anguish as a result of the increasingly difficult welfare benefits system, which is linked to an increasing rate of suicides. This situation will be exacerbated by the new developments.
We should not be put under pressure to look for work unless we feel capable. The competitive, profit-driven and exploitative nature of the modern workplace is not suitable for people whose mental health is fragile. But the location of the Network Hub at Streatham Job Centre put us under such pressure if we try to use mental health services.
Experts agree that CBT does not work for everyone; that psychological therapies are ineffective if they are forced on people; and that they need to take place in safe, unthreatening environments. We do not think making people have CBT at Job Centres will make anyone magically “fit for work.” We are concerned that people will be Sanctioned (i.e. have their benefits stopped) if they do not co-operate with this “therapy” either out of principle or because they are not well enough. “BACK TO WORK THERAPY” IS NO THERAPY AT ALL!
Additionally, we are concerned that this amounts to an extension of the coercive powers of the 1983 Mental Health Act amended 2007. Whereas at present people can only be forced into “treatment” under in-patient Sections of this Act or by Community Treatment Orders, making welfare benefits and by extension housing conditional on agreeing to psychological treatment broadens the principle of compulsion.
We condemn the involvement of IAPT in this attempt to make people undergo “therapy” at Job Centres, which we believe goes against professional ethics. We are also unhappy that psychiatrists, occupational therapists, nurses, social workers and other mental health professionals are also expected to work at Streatham Job Centre, again compromising their professional ethics, and we call on individual staff and collective agencies representing them to publicly oppose this development.
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