Last night, BBC One’s Panorama presented a half hour documentary on the government’s Work Programme. This was introduced 18 months ago to help people who’ve been out of work for a long time get back into employment. The focus of the documentary was on how this programme was working for those with disabilities – the “hard to place” candidates. It exposed a culture of paid-by-results private providers cherry picking the easiest to help, parking those considered hard to help and insulting attitudes towards clients who who some staff labelled as LTBs – Lazy Thieving Bastards.
When I watched the programme earlier today, I was shocked by the interview with Mark Gould, diagnosed with anxiety and depression and out of work for several years. The interviewer, Samantha Poling (pictured left) appeared to goad him into demonstrating behaviour that would make him “look like” he was mentally ill. It’s not an easy segment of the programme to watch.
That sparked a series of tweets, which I’ve collated here (links below), on the subject of what mental illness looks like, how it is perceived by the public and what that means in terms of access to welfare benefits when you’re unable to work – both in terms of the public’s perception of those who don’t “look” ill, and how Atos conducts Work Capability Assessments of people signed off by their own doctors as currently unfit to work.
I then commented on the fact that what you look like also forms a component of a psychiatric assessment. The Mental State (or Status) Examination includes observations such as whether you have a bizarre hairstyle or unnatural hair colour. I’ve written and tweeted on this before, in the blog post “You can’t dye your hair red”. I look at the contents of the MSE in more detail in these tweets.
It was interesting that the final segment of Panorama ended with an extended shot of a man in a wheelchair making his way slowly up a sloping street. That, it seems, is how people view disability.
Hope you find my tweets interesting. The best part, of course, is the responses of others. All the links are below.
If you have any comments on the post or the programme, please feel free to add them below. I’ll include new tweets that come in by updating the Storify story.
- My Storify story of my tweets & those of others – Panorama: What does mental illness look like?
- Panorama: The Great Disability Scam? On BBC One on Monday 28th January 2013
- Blog published just before the programme aired by one of the producers, Kate Ansell, who is herself disabled, including material that didn’t make it into the programme
- Mental health: you can’t dye your hair red! My earlier blog post on this topic
- Wikipedia on the Mental Status Examination – take a look at the section on appearance
- Link to a 2000 version of the Mental State Examination form which includes some the observations to note about appearance
- Mental health charity Rethink Mental Illness’s post: The truth behind mental illness & unemployment