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  • Post last modified:March 25, 2024
  • Reading time:7 mins read

The Labour Party‘s shadow work and pensions secretary Liz Kendall has announced some more of her plans for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). This time, they dangerously involved the NHS. Predictably, given Labour’s current trajectory Kendall’s approach is little more than continuity Tory – except for throwing in some political propaganda dressed up as ‘caring’.

DWP: Labour’s plans are in

Kendall was speaking exclusively to the Times. That’s a bad sign if ever there was one – given the Rupert Murdoch-owned outlet has been responsible for continuously pushing anti-benefits propaganda. The article detailed how, under Labour:

JobCentres will be made to work with the NHS to get the long-term sick back to work under plans which Labour says will be central to the success of Sir Keir Starmer’s government.

Uh-oh. This all sounds a bit Tory, as the Canary has documented. Under successive Conservative governments, DWP-NHS co-working has repeatedly increased. This has been to the dismay of medical professionals, chronically ill and disabled people, and campaigners alike.

So, what is Kendall specifically proposing?

Kendall: chatting shit dressed up as roses

Labour’s shadow DWP boss noted that:

We have a benefit system which is not supportive, it’s not geared around supporting people into work, and too often people are written off when they could, with the right help and support, get back into work. And what you have to do is have a system which gives people the confidence to take the plunge.

I do not want JobCentres to places of fear. I want JobCentres to be places where you can go get the support you need to get work, where businesses want to come because they get the best possible people. But what I don’t want is to have a situation where work coaches are spending all their time assessing and monitoring people, not giving them the opportunities they need…

OK – few could argue that the DWP is supportive of claimants. Nor would most people disagree with Kendall’s assertion that Jobcentres are “places of fear”. So, what’s her plan with regards to the DWP and NHS to alleviate this?

DWP claimants: good for nothing except economic growth

Specifically, she said:

I want JobCentres to actually have some duties to collaborate with the NHS and other bodies” in drawing up local growth plans.

Altogether, now: FFS!

Yes, you read that right. Kendall wants the NHS – the primary organisation in the UK that is tasked with looking after people’s physical and mental health and wellbeing – to get involved with the DWP, with the goal of viewing improvements in people’s health as a measure of economic “growth”.

As we predicted, this is little more than continuity Tory with some deceptive language thrown in for good measure.

DWP-NHS co-working: a Blair brainchild

The Conservatives have repeatedly increased the DWP’s involvement within the NHS. From the department removing the right of GPs to say their patients are too sick to work, to then getting them to refer chronically ill and disabled people for ‘voluntary’ work placements, via coercing GPs into giving fit-for-work verdicts – Jobcentres are increasingly encroaching into healthcare.

Not that this is new. As the Canary wrote in 2018 (that’s how long we’ve been talking about this) DWP-NHS co-working was (without irony) the brainchild of arch Blairite Kendall’s idol Tony Blair’s government. It’s just that the Tories have taken the idea and run with it.

The DWP infesting the NHS is a recipe for disaster.

Aside from the obvious – that the doctor-patient relationship is supposed to be one of privacy and sanctity without horrible DWP staff poking their snitch noses in – the idea that health is in any way related to work is a big, fat lie.

Lies on top of lies – while claimants kill themselves

Kendall said:

I believe in work… for mental health…

Repeat after us: THIS. IS. NOT. TRUE.

The DWP concocted this lie in 2011 – as the Canary previously documented. It’s one that’s also being pushed in countries like the US.  What’s more, in the current climate of precarious, low-paid or gig economy jobs are likely to be bad for people’s mental and physical health. This is not least because 11% of all workers lived in a household that was in poverty.

Plus, pushing people – whom the DWP has already subjected to systemic abuse and human rights violations – further towards or into work when they’re not ready or able (through no fault of their own) could be deadly. As a UN committee noted just last week, nearly 600 people took their own lives in just three years because of the Work Capability Assessment.

To be clear: it’s not that chronically ill and disabled people don’t want to work. Most of them physically can’t – either because they are too ill, or work is too inaccessible. That shouldn’t need saying. However it does, after years of government and media propaganda “demonising” these people – as a UN human rights committee called it.

So, in reality Kendall’s plans are little more than Labour’s attempt to be as human rights-violating as the Tories have been. She’s just dressing them up as something slightly cuddlier. Trying to push 2.7 million chronically ill and disabled people into work is toxic. So, Labour’s plans should be resisted at all costs.

Featured image via the Canary

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