JOBCENTRE staff are “uncomfortable” dealing with claimants with mental health issues because they are only given one day’s training in how to advise with people with disabilities.
Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) told the Star yesterday that it was “alarming” that training was so inadequate, despite the complex needs and wide range of disabilities they will have to deal with.
The campaign group’s research said some jobcentre training coaches found it “daunting” and “uncomfortable” working with disabled people, and felt they needed extra training on issues like mental health.
DPAC highlighted the findings as the government introduces new “claimant commitment” regulations, which cover disabled people being transferred from employment and support allowance (ESA) to universal credit.
The regulations, which take effect next month, list activities claimants must undertake to continue receiving their benefits.
Phil Reynolds, co-chairman of the Disability Benefits Consortium and senior policy and campaigns adviser at Parkinson’s UK, called for an urgent review of the policy before it is introduced.
He warned it could mean disabled people being “shoehorned” into employment.
Shadow work and pensions minister Alex Cunningham said: “Even the government’s own research has shown that in its current form, the claimant commitment is not fit for purpose.
“Work coaches are struggling to properly support claimants with complex conditions and the government must ensure that they receive the appropriate training.”
Disability groups have criticised the so-called “conditionality” and its focus on forcing people into work.
DPAC co-founder Linda Burnip said: “It is totally unacceptable that people with no medical training will be able to force harmful activities on disabled people. This is likely to lead to even more people being sanctioned and their conditions worsening.”
Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “We share these concerns and have repeatedly told the DWP that jobcentre staff need more support.”
He said that instead of listening to staff, disabled people, charities and advocacy groups, the government was “ploughing on with cuts.”
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “All our work coaches receive thorough training on how to support people with disabilities and long-term health conditions.
“They are able to tailor claimant commitments and ensure people are only asked to complete work-related activity which is suitable and reasonable.”