DWP’s Work Programme is actually making mental health problems worse, study finds

Jon Stone writing for The Independent (17/09/2015) – People on the programme report worsening health problems and reducing work motivation.

The Government’s Work Programme is making the lives of people with mental health problems worse and actually making them less able to work, research by a charity has found.

Mind said the flagship scheme, which requires people to take unpaid work allocated by contractors on pain of losing their benefits, was taking entirely the wrong approach and actually undermining work.

Research by the charity found that most people on the scheme because of their mental health problems reported worsening health issues due to their experiences of it.

83 per cent of people surveyed said the scheme’s “support” had made their mental health problems worse of much worse.

Mental Health SignAdditionally, over three quarters of people – 76 per cent – said the Work Programme had actually made them feel less able to work than before they were allocated to it.

The results chime with figures released in a number of previous years suggesting that people on the Work Programme are actually less likely to return to work than people who are simply left to their own devices.

In the first year of the £450million programme, just two out of 100 people on the scheme returned to work for more than six months.

In 2013 Labour’s then shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne described the scheme as “literally worse than doing nothing”.

“Cutting someone’s support for failing to meet certain requirements causes not just financial problems but a great deal of psychological distress too,” Mind’s chief executive Paul Farmer wrote on the PoliticsHome website.

“This punitive approach is backfiring … even the threat of being sanctioned can be enough to cause anxiety.

“We often hear from people who are filled with dread every time they receive a letter or phone call, in case they’re told the vital support they get from disability benefits has been reduced or stopped altogether.”

The charity said other models for schemes could be administered at a lower cost and produce better outcomes.

Mental health has moved up the political agenda in recent weeks. David Cameron yesterday admitted that his Government could “do more” to improve mental health services.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn meanwhile announced the creation of a dedicated mental health minister for his shadow cabinet.  He also used his first Prime Minister’s Questions to raise the issue and attended a fundraiser for a mental health trust on his first day as leader.

The Independent contacted the Department for Work and Pensions for comment on this story. A DWP spokesperson said:

“Previous job schemes did not do enough for disabled people or those with mental health issues, which is why we introduced the Work Programme.

“People claiming Employment and Support Allowance are not expected to work, however through the scheme we provide flexible support so they have the right skills for when they are ready to re-join the workforce.”

“I was under the impression many people on ESA ‘are expected’ to work through them failing a work capability assessment, self-administered, by the DWP”

Is your office chair hurting your health?

Some health tips regarding office chairs in which you may be seated using a computer etc for long periods at home or work.

When considering the possible risk factors for ill health, the humble office chair is unlikely to spring to mind.

However, there has been an increasing amount of research to suggest that working in sedentary environments can contribute to a number of health problems, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, some forms of cancer and even premature death.

Luckily, there are simple steps you can take to reduce your risk. If you are concerned that your office chair is harming your health, this simple guide should help to shed some light on the issue.

Office Chair

Poor posture

One of the main complaints of office dwellers is backache. When sitting down for a long time, it can be tempting to slouch or hunch over, and this posture can put added pressure on the lower back. Sitting in a static position can also increase strain on the shoulders, arms and legs. To help combat the aches and pains associated with prolonged sitting, having the right chair is essential. With ergonomically-designed furniture now widely available from specialist providers like Furniture At Work™, there really is no excuse for shoddy seating. However, simply owning anergonomic chair is not enough – in order to improve comfort and reduce muscle strain, these items of furniture need to be adjusted to suit users’ height and weight. When you’re sitting, make sure that your back is straight and properly supported. Meanwhile, your legs should be at right angles to your body and your feet should be flat on the floor.

Weight gain

We all know that being inactive increases your chances of putting on weight, but did you know that too much sitting can also put you at risk of a range of health problems, such as heart disease and diabetes? Prolonged periods of sitting is believed to slow down the metabolism, which not only affects the body’s ability to break down body fat, but also makes it harder to control blood sugar levels and blood pressure.

One way to prevent these problems is to stay active. At work, you should aim to take a break from your desk every 30 minutes – whether it’s making a drink, doing some photocopying or going for walk in your lunch hour, short bouts of activity can help to keep your body mobile and regulate your metabolism.

Other health problems

Spending the majority of your day sitting down has also been linked to poor circulation and varicose veins. To prevent these health conditions from developing, try to avoid sitting with your legs crossed and change your position as often as you can. Doing gentle yoga exercises in your chair can also help to promote healthy blood flow. There’s no getting around the fact that if you work in an office, sitting down is hard to avoid. However, by following helpful tips like these, you can minimise the health risks and enjoy a more productive working day.

Office chairs with high backrests, adjustable height and widths. Amply padded for seating comfort.