Three inpatients at a mental health clinic in Dorset were told that they had to attend jobcentre interviews, in a disturbing incident which highlights the dangers of giving inadequately trained work coaches any discretion whatsoever. It also underlines the foolhardiness of the Tory plans to abolish the work capability assessment (WCA) and allow work coaches to decide who is capable of work.
According to the Guardian, the three claimants were all inpatients at Forton Clinic near Dorchester and were in receipt of universal credit. At least one of the patients appears to have been sectioned.
All three claimants were told that they had to attend interviews with work coaches or risk having their benefit sanctioned This is in breach of DWP guidance which does not require inpatients to attend interviews and allows work coaches to waive the requirement for any sort of claimant commitment whilst a claimant is an inpatient in a hospital.
Fortunately, Citizens Advice have an outreach worker base at the clinic and they were able to persuade to DWP to remove the requirement for two of the patients to attend. However, the third interview did go ahead in order to prevent the UC claim being delayed.
Management at the Jobcentre in question have refused to guarantee that other inpatients at the clinic will not be asked to attend interviews in the future.
Under Conservative plans, the WCA is to be abolished for new claims in 2026/27. Instead, claimants who get PIP will be entitled to an additional health element in their UC. But decisions about whether a claimant is capable of work and what work-related activities, if any, they should undertake will be entirely left up to poorly trained work coaches.
Whilst these plans may never be put in place if there is a change of government later this year, incidents such as this demonstrate how disastrous it would be if they are not shelved.