Saturday, July 29, 2006

Welfare Reform Bill: Clause 17

Kit commented on the young people and mental health post and I was going to reply but thought I would post instead about the Welfare Reform Bill and the pernicious Clause 17 as it corresponds with what Kit says. The Welfare Reform Bill has had its second reading and that it could be law by this time next year. The clause below provides the power to the Secretary of State to make regulations and to write the law how they see fit. Clause 17 is ambiguous and unclear. Some civil servant low down the pecking order will intrepret the below in however the rules turn out to be. They won't have the insight or inclination to understand mental health issues instead they will make ill informed and snap decisions.

And they won't give a toss about the untold misery and distress this will have on people.

Who can tell what is meant by "own misconduct". One interpretation of not following medical advice could mean not taking your medication. Not turning up for your weekly pain-in-the-arse depot injection or maybe you're just finding the weekly Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) session too unhelpful or just not working. The clauses could mean... well anything.

And what the hell does "he fails without good cause to observe any prescribed rules ofbehaviour" actually means?

Clause 17 is vague and unclear but the worrying problem is that the regulations will be based on this clause. Who will make these powerful decisions? Doctors? Civil servants? Other agents of the state? Who knows...

The whole of the Bill revolves around conditionality which means in order to get benefits you have to comply and that includes taking your meds and/or seeing your shrink etc. These people will have control over your life such as reducing your money or pushing you into the job market when you may not feel ready. This Bill attacks powerless and vulnerable people but New Labour wants to make sure "shirkers" are roundly punished for taking money from the state.

I have trying to find out whether there is going to be any ongoing campaign by various organisations. The mental health charity, MIND have come out with their usual polite, twee and respectable guff. But I have contacted other mental health user organisations to see what more of a dynamic and impolite fuck-you response we can give the goverment....

If there are any events etc. organised I will keep people informed.

Btw: Thanx for the link Kit. Much appreciated!

Welfare Reform Bill

17 Disqualification

(1) Regulations may provide for a person to be disqualified for receiving an employment and support allowance, or treated for such purposes as the regulations may provide as not having limited capability for work, if—

(a) he has become someone who has limited capability for work through his own misconduct,

(b) he remains someone who has limited capability for work through his failure without good cause to follow medical advice, or

(c) he fails without good cause to observe any prescribed rules of behaviour.

(2) Regulations under subsection (1) shall provide for any such disqualification, or treatment, to be for such period not exceeding 6 weeks as may be determined in accordance with Chapter 2 of Part 1 of the Social Security Act 1998 (c. 14).

(3) Regulations may prescribe for the purposes of this section—

(a) matters which are, or are not, to be taken into account in determining whether a person has good cause for any act or omission;

(b) circumstances in which a person is, or is not, to be regarded as having good cause for any act or omission.