Today the Work and Pensions Committee released the report of their inquiry into the future of Jobcentre Plus. The report highlights a number of concerns around changes in Jobcentres.
Vicki Nash, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Mind, said:
“We welcome this report, which has helped to draw attention to the many problems within Jobcentres. Many of the concerns highlighted echo our own. It’s concerning that Work Coaches in Jobcentres will soon become the only source of support for the thousands of people with mental health problems who are currently out of work. People with mental health problems rarely have good relationships with their Work Coaches, in large part due to the prospect of being punished if they’re unable to do what their Work Coach asks of them. Threatening to cut people’s benefits often makes them even more anxious and unwell, and pushes them further away from work.
“Many people find it difficult to talk about how their mental health affects them even with those closest to them or who know them best, like friends, family or healthcare professionals. So it’s hardly surprising that many people aren’t able to speak openly and candidly about their mental health with someone they barely know, in a short space of time, in a busy open-plan Jobcentre, with the threat of having their benefits cut looming over them.
“If the Government is serious about encouraging Work Coaches to develop positive and trusting relationships with people with mental health problems, then it needs to make that relationship voluntary by removing the suspicion and sanctions that currently lie at its heart. We hear time and time again how people dread spending time at the Jobcentre. The current approach to back-to-work support is cruel, inappropriate and doesn’t help people back into employment.”