Much noise was made about George Osborne's plan to make JobSeekers' Allowance claimants either attend the JobCentre every day or participate in a workfare scheme.
But a less talked about nugget of the plan is this:
Or alternatively, if you've got long-term problems like addictions or mental health issues, you will have to go on an intensive programme that deals with that.
As we all sadly know; a great many people who are unable to work due to mental illness have, over the last few years, failed the WCA so been refused ESA and have been forced to claim JSA, despite being in no state to be job-seeking. And now it seems that people with health problems will be forced into potentially unsuitable treatment for their £71.70 a week.
A few years ago my right jaw joint crapped out. I have a bone disease so my joints are kinda crumbly. Last year I got told that that there was nothing wrong with my jaw and it was just depression. They wanted me to go for talking therapies as a treatment for my jaw pain.
About 6 months later someone finally bothered to take an x-ray of my jaw. Low and behold: There's a bloody great chunk of bone missing from my joint.
Now, my health problems are much more complicated than one little joint and I wouldn't be out of work for just one teeny joint (no matter how painful it can be at times). But lets hypothetically say I was on JSA because my jaw had made me lose my last job. It's possible. As a comedian my job depended on me being able to talk a lot. On some days that's really excruciating. I could have been forced to go through pointless counselling because at one point an idiot doctor decided to not look for physical evidence and proclaimed that my jaw pain was a mental health problem.
Now, in that example we're looking at forced treatment that's a complete waste of time and money, but ultimately harmless enough.
But some enforced treatments could be very dangerous indeed. Could you imagine someone with severe schizophrenia being sent to a barely-qualified counsellor? What about someone with Crohn's who has been misdiagnosed as bulimic by a doctor that won't listen and is then sanctioned by the DWP for not complying with their treatment when they - unsurprisingly - continue to throw up.
Forced treatment is a very dangerous route when you consider all the misdiagnosing that goes on. In fact: Forced treatment is pretty dangerous anyway. Last time I saw a neurologist about my migraines he prescribed a drug which prolonged my heart's QT interval. This can be fatal. If the DWP decided that I needed to get my migraines under control to make myself more employable and forced me to either take the drug the neurologist recommended or I'd be sanctioned and have no money for food; I might be dead by now.
Making people sign on every day is a waste of taxpayer's money. It will create havoc in JobCentres where they've barely got the staff to manage the current workload of people signing on once a fortnight. But this aspect of Gideon's 'Help to Work' program is downright dangerous.