On Saturday 5th November 2016 over 120 people attended the Mental Health and Welfare Reform: Resisting cuts and sanctions, building alliances conference at Liverpool Hope University.
There they discussed and built campaigns against the impact of draconian welfare reforms on claimants with mental health needs.
The event was organised jointly by the Social Work Action Network (SWAN), Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) Merseyside, SOS Liverpool and Merseyside Trades Union Council (TUC), and followed a similar event in London in March 2016.
The conference heard that while mental health services are facing big funding cuts the government has increased spending on draconian welfare reform initiatives targeted at people with mental health issues. The government’s reform agenda suggests unemployment is a psychological failure of the individual rather than the economy. It proposes ‘work therapy’ as the cure.
Plans include co-locating mental health services and job centres, placing therapists in Jobcentres, and employment advisors in GP surgeries. Health and social care professionals are being required to focus on employment-related targets with people with mental health needs. There is concern that benefit claimants will be forced to engage with these work therapies and sanctions applied to those who refuse.
The conference brought together welfare claimants, mental health service users/survivors, disabled people, mental health and welfare workers, social workers and trade unionists who are opposed to these ‘psycho-compulsion’ proposals. The aim was to develop awareness of these welfare reform policies and to build campaigns against them.
Speakers included Dr Jay Watts (Alliance for Counselling and Psychotherapy), Roy Bard (Mental Health Resistance Network) and Dr Phil Thomas (writer, formerly consultant psychiatrist & academic) amongst many others. Videos of the opening plenary speakers are available below.
On Jan 18th, the British Psychological Society conference in Liverpool was lobbied by campaigners from this event, and a full report can be found here.
For now, please watch the videos available here, and share with anyone interested.