Lynn Harrison to @MindCharity’s Paul Farmer regarding participation in #Workfare scheme. #mhuk #ukmh

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I’m writing as a former Mindlink NAP member, and network member,
regarding your statement on Mind’s website.

I just wanted to ask for clarification on a few points.
Have I correctly understood that you are equating volunteering with 
Workfare work placements? You write: 

Disability Works UK, our local Minds may be involved in offering 
specialist support to people with mental health problems helping to 
improve their skills and boost their confidence. 

Well-structured and meaningful volunteering can be an excellent way to 
prepare people for paid work”

You say that Mind will no take part in coercive practices, but, as I 
understand it, the terms of Workfare have been much publicised for some 
time? Certainly, those subjected to it have been very aware of this. 
Does this mean that you were not? How can that be?

You write : Disability Works UK will not play a role in imposing 
sanctions and will only seek contracts with providers whose values are 
compatible with our own

I wondered if you could explain that? And how Mind’s involvement with 
Workfare does not conflict with its stated support of those of us who 
have been campaining against the Welfare Refrom Bill? I believe Mind
supported The Hardest Hit campaign, at least, initially?

I would also like to ask why Mind has not been transparent about its 
involvement in Workfare via Disability Works UK? Many have been aware 
of this for some time but could not find any reference to it on Mind’s 
website until now? If it is something that Mind feels is of great 
benefit to people who are experiencing mental distress then wouldn’t 
Mind have wished to publicise this from the outset?

I look forward to your reply

Kind regards

Lynn Harrison

One thought on “Lynn Harrison to @MindCharity’s Paul Farmer regarding participation in #Workfare scheme. #mhuk #ukmh

    Dawn Willis responded:
    February 24, 2012 at 9:19 am

    MIND responds to Lynn:

    Dear Lynn,

    Thank you for your email, Paul has asked me to respond on his behalf, as the lead for Mind’s policy and campaigns work on welfare and benefits.

    We understand that there are serious concerns about both ‘workfare’ placements and the Work Programme, and we have raised many of concerns with both schemes ourselves through our campaigning. However, it is important to clarify the difference between the schemes and the nature of Mind’s involvement in each.

    Our statement, which you refer to, was focused on what has become known as ‘workfare’. This term in fact covers a number of different schemes involving work experience or work placements for different groups, with different degrees of compulsion involved. Mind does not support, and has no formal engagement in, these schemes. However, since the placements are organised at a local level by Jobcentre Plus or back-to-work providers, we recognise that there is a possibility that some local Minds or shops may have taken on volunteers who are in fact being compelled to take part. As such, we wanted to make it clear that we do not think any parts of the Mind network should be taking on these sort of volunteers and we will look to ensure that any such placements that are taking place will be ended.

    However, we absolutely recognise the value of volunteers and volunteering, where people are not being forced to take part. These people are vital to the ongoing success of the Mind network and their involvement can also be very beneficial in maintaining good mental health and, in some cases, increasing their chances of entering paid employment.

    Our involvement in the Work Programme, through our membership of DWUK and the individual involvement of some local Minds, is not connected to ‘workfare’. Instead, this is focused on ensuring that people taking part in the Work Programme with mental health problems are supported effectively in areas where local Minds can provide relevant services. This may include things like access to talking therapies, courses to increase confidence, or training in CV writing.

    Only a small number of local Minds are involved in the scheme and they are acting as ‘sub-contractors’ to the main providers on the Work Programme. We are using our mental health expertise to judge potential partners and we know that some do not share our view that coercion and sanctions don’t help anyone to recover. We also know that local Minds who are involved in these sort of schemes have helped to ensure that people aren’t sanctioned when they struggle to engage with activities because of their mental health problems.

    This involvement in the Work Programme in no way limits our ability to speak out on welfare reform and this is one of Mind’s priority areas of campaigning. We have played a key role in the Hardest Hit campaign, we have fought hard for changes in the Welfare Reform Bill, and we have raised issues publicly through our media work and our Daily Stigma campaign. We have achieved significant reforms in areas like the Work Capability Assessment and will continue to fight for a welfare and benefits system that is fair and effective for people with mental health problems.

    I hope this response addresses your concerns but do let me know if you have any other questions.

    Best wishes,

    Tom Pollard
    Senior Policy and Campaigns Officer

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