the free psychotherapy network

free psychotherapy for people on low incomes and benefits

Some background to the MWA and the New Savoy demo and lobby Wednesday 15th March 2017

The New Savoy partnership (this year’s is their 10th annual conference) was setup as an umbrella gathering of psy professional bodies and mental health charities involved in the introduction of IAPT after Layard’s Depression Report (2005) and his proposal with Prof David Clark (CBT head) for a massive roll out of evidence based CBT therapy – the IAPT programme.

In many ways, New Savoy is the annual gathering and marketing show of the partnership between therapy/charity sectors and government’s psychological therapies provision. Its main concern is IAPT, which was conceived of course to wed therapy to NICE guidelines and ‘evidence-based therapy’. At the same time, there are tensions and competition within the partnership for status and money, and around their different brandings.

See their intro to themselves here – http://www.newsavoypartnership.org

Getting people off benefits and into work has always been one central rationale and goal of IAPT. So in Layard’s depression report 2006:

We now have a million people on Incapacity Benefits because of mental illness – more than the total number of unemployed people receiving unemployment benefits. 

At one time unemployment was our biggest social problem, but we have done a lot to reduce it. So mental illness is now the biggest problem, and we know what to do about it. It is time to use that knowledge.

In the 2012 IAPT 3 year report (“first million patients”) :

As this report indicates, at the end of the first three full financial years of operation (end of March 2012), more than 1 million people have used the new services, recovery rates are in excess of 45% and 45,000 people have moved off benefits. 

But since the arrival of the Coalition in 2010, welfare reform has focused increasingly on workfare and the corralling of benefit claimants by hook or by crook into work – of any kind including voluntary work. The strategy has been a combination of cutting welfare benefits to push ‘shirkers and the welfare dependants’ into work, and mandatory programmes of work programmes, work preparation training, and full-time job search. All backed up by punitive and irrationally imposed sanctions.

A major target for welfare reform and workfare policies has been people on Employment and Support Allowance (what used to be called Incapacity Benefit – note the change in language). Of a total of 2.5 million ESA claimants, nearly a half have psychological and behavioural ‘diagnoses’, and this group has suffered a disproportionally high percentage of sanctions over the last 6 years – people, that is, whose physical and/or mental health disabilities leave them unable to work.

It is this group of more than a million claimants that are the primary concern of our campaigning. They are the people who are being targeted by the Government’s Work and Health programmes to be given psychological therapy to get them off benefits and ‘back to work’. They are the group who are receiving a disproportionate percentage of DWP sanctions. They are the people committing suicide in the face of constant pressure through repeated Work Capability Assessments and Personal Independence Payments assessments.

The story of the financial and psychological coercion of MH claimants has been constantly publicised over recent years, as I am sure you know.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/benefit-sanctions-against-people-with-mental-health-problems-up-by-600-per-cent-a6731971.html

http://blacktrianglecampaign.org/2014/10/21/uk-welfare-reform-deaths-updated-list-october-21st-2014/

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/dwp-defeated-in-court-again-over-unlawful-retroactive-benefit-sanctions-a7006466.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/mental-health-dwp-iain-duncan-smith-work-programme-worse-study-mind-charity-10505037.html

https://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/news/2717-dwp-target-mental-health-claimants-for-esa-sanctions

and so on and on.

As the links between mental health and DWP benefits policies have developed (see this Government catalogue of Work and Health reports between 2005 and 2014 – https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/health-work-and-wellbeing-evidence-and-research ) so has the link between Psy Professional bodies and the DWP. New Savoy has welcomed this marriage of workfare and IAPT/psychological well-being support. See their statement on welfare reform here – http://www.newsavoypartnership.org/joint-pledge-on-welfare.htm  For several years New Savoy invited DWP and DoH ministers to open their conferences (e.g. Lord Freud and Norman Lamb).

The Kitty Jones blog is very informative on the developing use of psychological coercion within the workfare system (e.g. https://kittysjones.wordpress.com/2015/10/28/the-government-plan-to-nudge-sick-and-disabled-people-into-work/) as is the Friedli and Stearn paper – http://mh.bmj.com/content/41/1/40.full

It was in the spring of 2015, when Osborne’s budget proposed co-locating IAPT workers in Jobcentres, that a number of Alliance and PCSR therapists contacted MH activist groups like the Mental Health Resistance Network and DPAC to see if we could work together to oppose the use of psychological therapy to get people off benefits and back to work.

The issue for us, of course, was the abuse of therapeutic ethics and practice through its application to support the goals and culture of DWP workfare – a policy direction based in political ideology, not clinical need. We see a shared cause between MH claimants on the receiving end of these policies and the unethical and demeaning working conditions of practitioners/workers providing the services. On the latter, see for example – https://www.theguardian.com/healthcare-network/2016/feb/17/were-not-surprised-half-our-psychologist-colleagues-are-depressed

The Mental Wealth Alliance (formerly MW Foundation) was born out of subsequent meetings between MH activists, professionals and welfare campaigners. It is an umbrella for 18 organisations concerned with MH, therapy and welfare:

Mental Health Resistance Network; Disabled People Against Cuts; Recovery in the Bin; Boycott Workfare; The Survivors Trust; Alliance for Counselling and Psychotherapy; College of Psychoanalysts; Psychotherapists and Counsellors for Social Responsibility; Psychologists Against Austerity; Free Psychotherapy Network; Psychotherapists and Counsellors Union; Critical Mental Health Nurses’ Network; Social Work Action Network (Mental Health Charter); National Unemployed Workers Combine; Merseyside County Association of Trades Union Councils; Scottish Unemployed Workers’ Network; National Health Action Party; Making Waves

In April 2015 the Alliance for Counselling and Psychotherapy organised a Guardian letter signed by over 400 psy professionals on the consequences for people’s mental health of the Governments austerity cuts, and in particular the plans to expand the use of therapists to ‘encourage’ MH benefits claimants into work – https://freepsychotherapynetwork.com/mwa-response-to-the-psy-professional-bodies-statement-on-benefit-sanctions-and-mental-health-301116/

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/apr/17/austerity-and-a-malign-benefits-regime-are-profoundly-damaging-mental-health

At the same time, the MWA began an exchange of letters with the five main psy professional organisations, expressing  our outrage at their support for and participation in DWP workfare programmes. The latest contribution from MWA to this exchange is the response to their statement on sanctions which can be found here – https://freepsychotherapynetwork.com/mwa-response-to-the-psy-professional-bodies-statement-on-benefit-sanctions-and-mental-health-301116/.    The earlier exchanges can be found here – https://allianceblogs.wordpress.com/2016/04/28/mwf_letters_2/  The only organisation that has responded to our request to meet and talk about the issues is BABCP who we met in November last year, shortly before the recent statement on sanctions.

Members of the MWA have campaigned together against the co-location of IAPT, psychological support services in Jobcentres in June 2015 – https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/jun/26/mental-health-protest-clinic-jobcentre-streatham  & https://johnnyvoid.wordpress.com/2015/06/26/streatham-jobcentre-besieged-by-protesters-demanding-no-forced-treatment/

The locating of DWP work counsellors in GP practices in March 2016 – http://islingtonnow.co.uk/2016/03/07/putting-job-advisers-in-doctors-surgeries-will-harm-patients-say-protesters/

New Savoy partnership July 2016 – http://dpac.uk.net/2016/06/protest-against-work-cure-therapy-5th-july-london/ and video here –  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VBbXK1Ac7W0  Here is the double sided leaflet we gave out to attendees of the conference. Very relevant to the March protest – https://freepsychotherapynetwork.files.wordpress.com/2016/07/notinournamenothingaboutus-final.pdf

Associates of MWA helped organise a lobby at the BPS annual conference this January – https://freepsychotherapynetwork.com/united-against-welfare-cuts-against-reform-report-from-the-lobby-of-the-british-psychological-society-conference-18th-january-2017/

We have held two major conferences – in Bermondsey and Liverpool – on welfare reform and psycho-compulsion. Reports here – https://allianceblogs.wordpress.com/2016/04/15/welfare-coercion-conference-report-part-1/  and here – http://socialworkfuture.org/campaigns-events/529-mh-and-welfare-reform-conference-report We have participated in the Free Psychotherapy Network’s conference and the Psychologists and the Benefits System conference in Manchester – http://www.walkthetalk2015.org/news/psychologists-and-benefits-system

It must be said that the courage and initiative for campaigns and direct has been led by the MH survivor organisations and welfare campaigning organisations like Boycott Workfare. We therapists are johnny-come -lately’s to such direct protest at the policy makers who have for over a decade now been adapting so-called psychotherapy to the needs of neoliberal policy-making. Apart from anything else, the therapists among us are calling on our colleagues to please wake up to the need to act.

New Savoy Conference protest 15th March 2017. 

In this context, the demo on March 15th is really important we think. New Savoy is the jamboree of psychological therapies and their relationship with government policy and money. And it is pretty clear that our campaigning against psycho-compulsion of benefit claimants is beginning to have an impact.

See details of the conference here – http://www.healthcareconferencesuk.co.uk/psychological-therapies-2017

Jeremy Clarke is the NS Partnership chair. If you read his introduction to this 10th anniversary conference and his recent open letter –  https://freepsychotherapynetwork.files.wordpress.com/2017/02/openletternsp2017.pdf

– you will get something of a picture of how IAPT is in a state of self-doubt, anger at lack of funding, distress and disillusionment among its front-life workers, misgivings about the compromises it has had made over the years.

MWA are currently talking to Jeremy Clarke about the possibility of some of us addressing the conference. The ethics of psychological therapy being offered within the DWP’s work and health programmes is being discussed at the conference on Thursday afternoon (16th March). We’ll see.

In any case, we are hoping for a large turnout of therapists and MH user/survivor organisations on Wednesday morning to lobby and leaflet attendees as they arrive at the venue in South Kensington. Please come and join us.

Details of the action, the venue and timings here.

Mental Wealth Alliance

Mental Health Resistance Network; Disabled People Against Cuts; Recovery in the Bin; Boycott Workfare; The Survivors Trust; Alliance for Counselling and Psychotherapy; College of Psychoanalysts; Psychotherapists and Counsellors for Social Responsibility; Psychologists Against Austerity; Free Psychotherapy Network; Psychotherapists and Counsellors Union; Critical Mental Health Nurses’ Network; Social Work Action Network (Mental Health Charter); National Unemployed Workers Combine; Merseyside County Association of Trades Union Councils; Scottish Unemployed Workers’ Network; National Health Action Party;Making Waves