Urgent: Signatures please for letter to Guardian on the psychological damage of austerity politics – by Wednesday 15th April


Dear colleagues,

After news that the Coalition want to put psychological therapists into 350 Jobcentres to ‘therap’ claimants into work, and that the Fit for Work programme being rolled out nationally will include CBT and IAPT-like therapy and has been outsourced to Maximus (the private company that has taken over from ATOS to do Work Capability Assessment), we at the Alliance of Counselling and Psychotherapy have written a letter to the Guardian expressing our opposition to the unethical use of therapy, and to the psychological damage of austerity politics generally. We are now gathering signatures for it.

A copy of the letter is here below.

We would really like to invite our colleagues in the counselling and psychotherapy professions to offer their signature.

Please send your signature with your preferred appellation to Richard House richardahouse@hotmail.com – by next Wednesday lunchtime (April 15th)

Thanks in advance.
All the best,

Paul Atkinson

Dear Letters Editor,

The profoundly disturbing psychological and quality-of-life implications of the Coalition government’s cuts and policies have yet to be mentioned in the election campaign. Counsellors and psychotherapists in the public and private sectors find themselves at the coal-face in responding to the effects of austerity politics on the emotional state of the nation. The past five years have seen a radical shift in the kinds of issues generating distress in our clients: increasing inequality and outright poverty, families forced to move against their wishes, and, perhaps most important, benefits claimants (including disabled and ill people) and those seeking work being subjected to a quite new, intimidatory kind of disciplinary regime.

Where this includes the linkage of social security benefits to the receipt of a kind of “state therapy”, as announced in the Chancellor’s latest budget, professionally this is totally unacceptable. “Get to work therapy” is manifestly not therapy at all. With the ominous news that Maximus (the US company replacing Atos to do Work Capacity Assessments) will also be managing the new national Fit for Work programme, it is time for the field’s key professional organisations to wake up to these malign developments, and unequivocally denounce such so-called “therapy” as damaging and professionally unethical.

More generally, the wider reality of a society thrown completely off balance by the emotional toxicity of neoliberal thinking is affecting Britain in profound ways, the distressing effects of which are often most visible in the therapist’s consulting room. This letter sounds the starting-bell for a broadly based campaign of organisations and professionals against the damage that neoliberalism is doing to the nation’s mental health. For now, we call on all the parties in this election – and particularly Labour – to make it clear that they will urgently review such anti-therapeutic practices, and appropriately re-fashion their much-trumpeted commitment to mental health if and when they enter government.

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