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After working tirelessly on benefits and mental health issues for many years at Mind, Tom Pollard spent 18 months working as Senior Mental Health Policy Advisor for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
The secondment lasted from November 2016 until April 2018 and culminated with a report - ‘Pathways from Poverty’ – published by DEMOS. The aim of Tom’s secondment was to advise policy and practice in order to better support people with mental health problems and other disabled people accessing the Government’s controversial welfare system.
Within this hard-hitting publication, Tom shares his insights and hopes for the way in which the Department can work toward improving the benefits and back-to-work system for disabled people, including people with mental health problems. This report highlights that progress is being hindered by barriers and resistance to change that are embedded within the DWP’s culture. Rather than challenging specific ideas or policies and looking at issues in isolation, the report calls for radical and institutional reform to a government department that is currently ‘institutionally and culturally incapable’ of supporting disabled people.
Responding to this report, Paul Farmer, Mind’s Chief Executive said:
“We welcome this report, which echoes Mind’s longstanding concerns about the benefits system. We have consistently campaigned for a system which supports, not demonises, those of us with mental health problems. If you are out of work because of your mental health, you need empathy, understanding and financial support, not mandatory activities or the threat of sanctions. This report shines a bright light on fundamental cultural problems within the DWP that are preventing the change we need to see.
“Given the high proportion of people with mental health problems who need support from the benefits system, it’s only right that mental health should be at the heart of every project, reform and policy. In order to properly understand and support people who need support from benefits, there needs to be greater mental health expertise within the DWP, and a willingness to involve people in decisions that affect them. Successive benefits reforms have encountered major problems and have often left people with mental health problems getting the worst deal. This report suggests the need for a fresh approach to welfare policy and delivery.
“Mind continues to campaign independently and outspokenly until we get a system that allows everyone experiencing a mental health problem to live full and independent lives. This includes closing the disability employment gap and supporting us both within work and when we fall out of employment. As this report highlights, the right provision must be in place for those of us who can and want to work to ensure we can return to work safely.”