Over 400 psychotherapists, counsellors, and other mental health professionals have described government proposals contained in the budget as “profoundly disturbing” and creating an “intimidatory disciplinary regime”.
In a letter to The Guardian newspaper, the experts said that austerity cuts are impacting on the emotional and psychological wellbeing of the nation, and amounted to nothing more than unethical ‘get to work therapy’.
Increasing inequality and poverty, families being moved out of their homes and new systems determining benefit levels were part of “a wider reality of a society thrown completely off balance by the emotional toxicity of neoliberal thinking”, according to more than 400 signatories to the letter. The consequences were “most visible in the therapist’s consulting room”.
The letter’s writers said it “sounds the starting bell for a broadly based campaign of organisations and professionals against the damage that neoliberalism is doing to the nation’s mental health”.
The 2015 budget included plans to provide online cognitive behavioural therapy to 40,000 claimants and people on the Fit for Work programme, as well as putting therapists in more than 350 job centres.
The letter was being organised before the Conservative party manifesto was published earlier this week. This said that those with long-term but treatable conditions, including drug or alcohol addiction and obesity, might lose benefits if they refused recommended treatments.
Psychotherapist and author Susie Orbach called the Conservative manifesto “beyond shocking”.
She said “It undermines the fundamental principles of one’s right to physical and mental care – that you have to be able to consent and that the people you go to have to be highly trained and have your best interests and aren’t meeting targets.”
She added: “And we certainly don’t want claimants’ and job-seekers’ aspirations and paltry money dependent on whether they take up treatment options, which bounce them into mental health treatments which may not suit them, and which violate all of our notions of what constitutes a minimum standard for productive engagement in therapy: in short, consent.”
Andrew Samuels, an Essex University professor, and immediate past chair of the UK Council for Psychotherapy, insisted the letter was not pro-Labour but was aimed at getting a review of measures taken and proposed over the past five years.
“If Labour decides afterwards all this is in order, it will go on. But I don’t think it will. I don’t see how it can,” he said.
Samuels believed there was “a bit of a public school ethos” behind the work-capability regime introduced under the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition and new Conservative plans.
Characterising the government attitude as “Pull yourself together man, for heaven’s sake,” Samuels added: “It is wholly inappropriate. It symbolises a society that has lost all moral compass.”
Richard House of the Alliance for Counselling and Psychotherapy, the letter’s main organiser, said there had been a mounting groundswell of concern. “When one hears story after story of dramatic negative health impacts, psychological and physical, after people are subjected to these back-to-work practices, the time has surely come for an ‘emotional audit’ of the impact of what, to many, appear to be heartless, un-thought-through policies that are merely penalising and punishing the already disadvantaged still further.”
The only interest the government has is in turning everyone into economic slaves for the sake of company shareholders. The incredible increase in unstable employment since the current government came to power is shocking.
They seem to view anything concerning social care to be a burden rather than a valuable and necessary foundation for a civilised society.
A culture of greed and self-interest has been nurtured as time after time the government has demonstrated that they only serve those who share the same psychopathic impulses for power and wealth as they.
Despite the potential for billions of pounds of taxpayer’s money to be saved through institutional change and control, they continue to steal from public service and spend obscene amounts on their own pet projects, which do little (if anything) to serve the nation as a whole.
Mental health and disability are easy targets for their predatory psychopathy and exemplifies how much damage can be caused when these kind of ‘law of the jungle’ policies are implemented in society.
The electorate are gullible, and the Conservatives know it, which is why they are relying on money and a campaign of propaganda rather than their track record to try and win the next general election.
Whichever party comes into power after the election (other than Conservative) they will have a long and painful task ahead of them to redress the damage caused during the last five years.
One thing is for sure, the promises and electioneering of the Conservatives is just propaganda. If they are allowed back into power then the people of the UK will be subjected to a further five years which will be significantly more damaging than the last.
It is not only the poor and vulnerable who are in the Conservative sights. Middle earners are next on the hit list.