Protesters gathered in Streatham Memorial Gardens with many carrying banners showing the growing anger at the collaboration of mental health workers and charities with the DWP’s workfare and benefit sanctions regime. At just after 2pm the protest took to the streets, taking over the busy road before fnally arriving outside the Jobcentre which now also contains much of Lambeth’s mental health services.
The ever present G4S security guards blocked campaigners from entering the Jobcentre, with one member of staff informing the amused crowd that there were no jobs available today. What bungling Jobcentre workers didn’t realise is that several people were already inside the building where they proceeded to disrupt the opening party of the so-called Living Well Network Hub and hung a banner out of the window to large cheers from the crowd.
The message from those present was clear. The threatened forced psychological treatments pledged in the Tory Manifesto will be fought every step of the way – and any charities or healthcare professionals who collaborate with this unethical practice will also be held to account. The re-locating of vast swathes of local mental health services in the Jobcentre building was also the target of anger – a move carried out without any public consultation and which suggests a chilling future for mental health service delivery in Lambeth.
According to The Guardian, the DWP are now denying that Streatham will be one of the pilot areas for the upcoming scheme which will eventually see therapists stationed in 350 Jobcentres. Apparently the department made a mistake when they said this would be the case. South London and Maudsley NHS Trust are also spinning fast, claiming there are no plans for ‘formal’ links between the new Living Well Network Hub and the Jobcentre.
A press release by homelessness charity Thamesreach, who are part of the network of agencies running the project, reveals a very different story however. According to them the Hub brings together voluntary sector providers, GPs, psychiatrists, nurses, occupational therapists and social workers with Streatham Jobcentre Plus staff. The intention, according to the charity, is “specialist mental health services operating alongside Jobcentre Plus Staff” with the “common goal of improving health and well-being and helping people to get back to, or stay in, work.” And that is why the project was recently visited by not just Iain Duncan Smith, but the former DWP Minister for Disabled People Mark Harper. They must think we are fucking idiots if they expect us to believe this is all just some big coincidence.
The protest was called by the Mental Health Resistance Network, whilst campaigners were also present from Kilburn Unemployed Workers, Boycott Workfare and Disabled People Against Cuts. Those speaking at the protest warned this was just the beginning. Forced treatment, of any kind, for anybody, will be ferociously resisted. And therapists, charities and mental health workers should get the fuck out of Jobcentres and refuse to participate in DWP attempts to rebrand unemployment as a psychological defect.
Boycott Workfare will be back on the streets tomorrow for the day of action against workfare exploiters B&M Stores, check their website for details.
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