In a letter to the national news media, an organisation representing mental health professionals in the UK write:
The Alliance for Counselling and Psychotherapy is a nationally recognised interest group of mental health professionals from diverse clinical and academic backgrounds.
We were appalled to learn that last Friday, February 24th, without consultation or warning, the Government launched yet another vicious attack on the psychological, as well as financial resources of benefit claimants with mental health and physical disabilities (Tory ministers have rewritten the law to deny increased disability benefit payments to more than 150,000 people Daily Mirror, 24 Feb).”
Emergency legislation has over-ridden the rulings of two tribunals that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) should expand the reach of Personal Independence Payments (PIP). At stake is mobility support for over 140,000 people who suffer “overwhelming psychological distress” when travelling alone, and more than 1,000 people who need help to take medication and monitor a health condition.
The courts ruled both categories of support needed to be included in the PIP assessment of people’s needs. The DWP itself admits this will include for example those who have a learning disability, diabetes, epilepsy, anxiety or dementia.
In September 2016, Theresa May and her DWP ministers promised there would be no more welfare cuts on top of the string of draconian measures agreed last year as the final contribution of Cameron and Osborne’s campaign to punish those who cannot work. It seems her promise was another lie.
With delicious irony, Disabilities Minister Penny Mordaunt said this latest move would “make sure we are giving support to those who need it most”. Meanwhile on Marr this Sunday, Tory party chairman Patrick McGloughlin responded to criticism of the emergency legislation by stating “as far as supporting disabled people in this country is concerned, we do very proudly”.
This is a government determined, come hell or high water, to strip welfare provision to the absolute bone, an ideological commitment it justifies in terms of the fiscal necessity of austerity savings and the therapeutic magic for all benefit claimants of getting themselves into work.
As mental health professionals, we find it tragic and painful to be living through a period in which the social contract between the advantaged and the disadvantaged is under full-frontal attack.
More particularly, we find it shameful that our own professional bodies – psychotherapists, counsellors, psychologists and psychiatrists – continue to participate in the abuse of human rights and of their own ethical codes through their involvement in the psycho-compulsion of benefits complainants through the DWP’s workfare and Work and Health policies.
We call on the government to reverse its policies of welfare cuts as a minimum step to honouring Theresa May’s promises for a fairer deal for those struggling to cope to maintain any decent conditions of life.
And we call upon our fellow ‘psy’ professionals to now insist on a withdrawal of all involvement in supporting the psychological coercion and punishment by the DWP of the most disadvantaged members of our society.
Paul Atkinson and Professor Andrew Samuels (for the Alliance for Counselling and Psychotherapy)