Work Programme whistleblower reveals lack of support for vulnerable people on government’s welfare-to-work Work Programme.

19 November 2014

A former Work Programme adviser has anonymously spoken to the Guardian about her experience of moving vulnerable claimants off Employment and Support Allowance and into work. She states that: ‘Almost every day one of my clients mentioned feelings of suicide to me’.

Melissa Viney writes that ‘a scandalous picture of suffering, trauma and destitution’ emerges from the former employee’s testimony, who calls herself ‘Anna’. Anna recounts that of her 100 client caseload, the majority were not well enough to re-enter the labour market. Her clients suffered from conditions which ranged from paranoid schizophrenia, to multiple sclerosis; presenting multiple and intersecting barriers to work which Anna did not feel she had the training to work with.

‘Every person who came in needed specialist help on a whole range of things, and to be supported, not under imminent threat of losing their benefit the whole time’.

She believes that many had been wrongly labelled as ‘fit to work’ by the Work Capability Assessment (WCA). Furthermore as Work Programme advisors are not provided with details of their clients’ needs through the WCA, Anna said she had felt she had little hope of providing appropriate support. A DWP spokesperson has responded by saying that they are looking into ways of sharing details of client’s medical needs with advisers.

Anna also criticises the mandated use of benefit sanctions on claimants who failed to turn up to interviews with their adviser. A former colleague has alerted her that the practice has intensified in recent months.

The article also draws on Inclusion’s Fit for Purpose report which found that ‘disabled people are less likely to find work than participants without an impairment [through the Work Programme] and may also be less likely to receive appropriate support (driven in part by very low funding).’

Other news this week has revealed that the DWP has carried out 60 reviews into deaths linked to benefit cuts, particularly amongst people found ‘fit to work’ by WCA.