Intolerance: Sick & Unemployed to get Therapy to Get Back To Work

The extent of Scotland's 'dependency culture' has been revealed with research shotwing 70 per cent of working-age people in one of the country's most deprived areas are receiving state benefits for ill health. An investigation of a council ward in 'Glasgow's Gorbals' area found that of the 1_900 working-age residents, 1_400 were receiving incapacity benefit (IB) or other sickness benefits. Such is the scale of the problem in the 'Hutchesontown ward' that a private recruitment company has been hired by 'The Department for Work and Pensions' ('DWP') to try to convince claimants that they are in fact able to work. The firm offers such basic help as assistance with buying a suit and advice on how to visit the dentist. IB, paid out at rates of up to 76_GBP/week, is given to working-age people who can prove they are unable to carry out basic physical tasks, and are thus unavailable for employment. In Scotland, 281_500 receive the benefit, amounting to 8.9 per cent of Scotland's working population. But the system has become mired in controversy, with critics claiming that IB has turned thousands of people into dependents upon the state. IB is higher than income support -- a fact which opponents say creates an incentive for jobless people to apply -- and it is also relatively easy to claim. Attention was focused back on the system after 'The Work and Pensions Secretary Mr.David Blunkett', declared last month, 2005-09, that the system was 'crackers', claiming that depressed and stressed people on IB would be better off getting a job than 'sitting at home watching daytime TV'. 'BBC's' 'Frontline Scotland' is devoting a programme to the system on Wednesday 2005-10-26 evening. The recruitment firm working in the Gorbals, 'Reed in Partnership', uses trained psychologists to knock on people's doors in the hope they can persuade them to consider getting a job. They say that many claimants feel unable to consider work because they suffer from rock-bottom self-esteem after years of unemployment. But critics of the IB system say that ministers must now tighten up eligibility rules for benefits. It is claimed that often GPs simply sign off claimants without due checks. Professor Mr.Steve Fothergill of 'Sheffield Hallam University' said:
'Ill health and disability is not necessarily a bar to work.
'Labour Force Survey data shows that around half the adults of working age who report a long-term work-limiting illness do in fact work.
'Only a quarter of male IB claimants say they can't do any work at all.
'For the rest, the limitation is on exactly what work they do, or how much'.
Mr.Mike Weir, the SNP's work and pensions spokesman, said:
'The problem with incapacity benefit is that it was used all through "The Thatcher years" to cover up the unemployment figures and it's now all coming home to roost. Blunkett's approach is to stigmatise everyone on benefit and give the idea that they are having us on, and that policy is completely wrong.
'There are people who should be receiving the benefit. 'Many people on incapacity benefit do want to work but fear that if they go to work and something does not work out then they will be worse off than ever. 'The answer is to have a compassionate system which gets people into appropriate jobs without the risk that people going into work will lose out.'
The radical moves in Glasgow come with the 'DWP' preparing to roll out a pilot programme known as 'Pathways to Work' across Glasgow from the end of this month, 2005-10. The scheme will offer all claimants of IB additional financial and health advice, with the aim of breaking the cycle of dependency. People on IB are also offered pay supplements on top of offered wages, so that it pays to work. Officials say efforts to get people back into work are already paying dividends with the number of claimants in Scotland having fallen by 8_000 since February 2003. Mr.David Carew, an occupational psychologist for 'Reed in Partnership', explained the problems faced in the Gorbals. He said:
'People are in a spiral of unemployment. 'It is corrosive in terms of the effects on self-esteem. 'There is clearly an issue where people spiral downwards the longer they are unemployed. These people have never worked. 'The result is you have to go back to the building blocks.' 'The biggest thing for most people is fear. 'We see a lot of anxiety and depression. 'These people require therapeutic intervention. 'They have been living with conditions which are quite manageable if they are given the right support. 'We will try to meet people in the street and go and knock on their doors to ask them to consider work. 'We try to build their confidence, coach them on a career and put them into a work placement. 'Sometimes we have to help them go out and buy a suit or maybe get their teeth looked at. 'I might help them with things like voice projection.'
A spokesman for 'DWP' said that the new 'Pathways to Work' programme in Glasgow would seek to build on the work in the Gorbals.
'Glasgow will offer a whole range of additional financial, healthcare and job search support to IB customers. 'We want to ensure that we help this group overcome the multiple barriers they face in getting back to work,' he said.
'Makeovers to get sick Scots back to work', Eddie Barnes, Scotland On Sunday,2005-10-23


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