So the doctor says to their patient “I’ve got some good news, and some bad new. The bad news is you’ve only got six months to live … but the good news is that I’ve found you a temporary job working in Poundland.”
You might have noticed that this joke is not very fucking funny. But this is the dream of council bureacrats in one London borough who are developing a horrifying strategy for local healthcare which will see “employment viewed as a clinical outcome.”
Whilst the final plans for Iain Duncan Smith’s localised Health and Work Programme have not yet been released, the Labour dominated Borough of Islington are jumping aboard the gravy train early and have set up their own scheme to tackle what they call ‘health-related worklessness’. In a report published in 2014 the so-called Islington Employment Commission – a bunch of local employers, councillors, Jobcentre busy-bodies and a token TUC representative – called for radical change in the borough’s employment support strategy. Their proposals mirror almost exactly the current direction of Tory social security policy, even down to using the same words.
All young people should be ‘learning or earning’ according to the commission, a phrase first used by David Cameron when he announced the yet to materialise mass workfare programme for all those under 21. They also claim that many long term sick or disabled people are not receiving enough employment support because “their benefit does not require them to look for work”. And for those who do have to look for work as part of their benefit conditions, they say the support is not good enough, and they think they could do better. In fact salaries depend on it. As such they recommended establishing a local Health and Work Programme to make ‘maximising employment a priority’ for healthcare services.
Six months later Islington Council teamed up with Islington Clinical Commissioning Group who oversee local healthcare and ominously formed a partnership with Jobcentre Plus. The DWP were only too happy to help and agreed to fund the salary of an Employment Lead worker to work at the heart of Islington’s NHS services to “to drive employment outcomes through strategic health commissioning”. What this means is money meant for healthcare will instead be shovelled into the hands of grasping welfare-to-work parasites with the aim of reducing “entrenched worklessness among residents with a health condition or disability in the borough.”
One of the first moves, which is already sparking local outrage, is to introduce Employment Coaches into six GP’s surgeries in Islington. These tax payer funded busy-bodies will come from Remploy who were recently sold off to giant US outsourcing company Maximus who already run many Jobcentre services. Doctors will be encouraged to refer patients for employment support with the same company who carry out the despised Work Capability Assessment used to stop disabled people’s benefits by finding them fit for work. A company that has been the target of ongoing protests by disabled people and benefit claimants. It is hard to imagine a bigger insult to disabled or long term sick people in Islington. But then perhaps that is the point.
This is leafy, lefty Islington, and so there is lots of gushing talk about quality of life and creating living wage jobs in the proposals for the new scheme. They don’t really mean it though. In Islington Employment Commission’s report they discuss how some residents object to taking the first job they are offered because it might be unsuitable or low paid. According to the commission local employers have told them this is not the case and that people should be prepared to take a job that isn’t perfect no matter how shit, just to get their foot on the ladder. But then they would say that wouldn’t they. Islington’s Health and Work service is being designed with the needs of employers in mind, not local people.
As such, whilst evidence shows that low paid, insecure, or unsuitable work is bad for your health, doctors will still be encouraged to coerce their paients into taking these jobs. And whilst Islington Councillors and healthcare bueracrats salve their consciences by telling themselves about all the wonderful opportunities they are creating for disabled people, their partners, Jobcentre Plus will provide the teeth – in the form of vicious and life destroying benefit sanctions – to ensure compliance. Iain Duncan Smith must be pissing himself as the liberal elite dance to his tune in Jeremy Corbyn’s backyard. If he can get away with this shit here, he will consider he can do it everywhere. And that is why it must be stopped.
A protest has been called outside City Road Medical Centre, 190-196 City Road , London, EC1V 2QH on Friday 4th March from 3pm. Please spread the word, more details on the facebook page.