Job seekers with mental ill health will ‘not be forced into therapy’

Psychotherapy organisations unite to campaign against people with mental health problems facing benefit sanctions if they do not engage with therapy

Published on 7th March 2016

The government will not coerce people with mental health problems who are seeking employment into therapy, it has emerged.

Last year, the government announced that it planned to co-locate therapists in job-centres in a bid to help people with mental health problems who are seeking employment.

However, a number of concerns were raised including:

  • The underpinning rationale was not for improving health, but rather for ideological purposes
  • Employment was being considered as a clinical outcome
  • People would be coerced into therapy or face sanctions on their unemployment benefit payments
  • People would have to access therapy in an unsuitable therapeutic environment
  • There would be a lack of privacy in a job centre environment.

 The UK Council for Psychotherapy, the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, the British Psychoanalytic Council, and the British Psychological Society have met with officials from the Government’s new Joint Health and Work Unit to scrutinise the plans over recent months.

“In August 2015, we took the decision to engage with the Department for Work and Pensions, to ascertain the facts and to try to scrutinise and, if necessary, to influence plans.  Our priority is patient or client health and wellbeing and the need to examine the underlying socio-economic causes of people suffering from mental ill-health, rather than stigmatise people suffering from mental ill health who happened to be unemployed,” said a statement from the organisations.

The organisations have urged government that plans must be aimed at improving mental health and wellbeing rather than as a means of getting people back to work and there must be no conditionality or associated sanction on unemployment benefit.

In addition, clients must be treated compassionately, have their privacy respected and client choice must be central to the method and location of delivery of therapy, the groups added.

The groups have said that they have been consistently advised that the government has ruled out any use of coercion or sanctions in relation to therapy. In addition it has opted to pursue a small-scale co-location feasibility trial which, importantly, will thoroughly evaluate privacy issues and mental health outcomes comparative to those achieved by therapy in other settings.

“We are acutely aware of the sensitivities around this issue and will continue to engage with the Joint Work and Health Unit to critically examine their ongoing work, to ensure that the full range of potential co-location options trialled are in the best interests of clients, and that the evaluations will be thorough and robust enough to pick up on all of our areas of concern.  We are particularly aware that for the Government plans to be ethical, employment must at no time be seen as a clinical outcome, staff must not be involved in coercion, and client attendance must not be mandatory,” a statement from the organisations concluded.



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