Charity vilified as it lends manager to government

Unbelievable, grossly inconsiderate and just plain barmy.

Why UK mental health charity Mind would agree to the one-year secondment of one of its senior managers to the government’s tainted Department of Work and Pensions is as incomprehensible as it is stupid.

It has been reported that the charity’s policy and campaigns manager Tom Pollard will be working with DWP on secondment as a senior policy adviser.

And, as a slap in the face for all people with disabilities, including those with multiple sclerosis, he will be working on areas such as the government’s upcoming green paper on employment support for disabled people, the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) and support in jobcentres.

The news has been met with derision and fury along with calls for MIND chief executive Paul Farmer to resign.

Disability activists say the charity has betrayed al people with disabilities by failing to speak out strongly enough on behalf of benefit claimants who have been harmed, or even died, as a result of DWP’s much-criticised WCA “fitness for work” test.

The Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN) is also angry about Mind’s decision to quit a long-running court case to force government ministers to make the WCA safer. Denise McKenna, co-founder of MHRN, said Mind was “a disgrace”, and had only pulled out of involvement with the court case because it wanted to secure back-to-work contracts from DWP.

She said: “MHRN won’t be leaving things at this, we want change at the very top of national Mind and will be demanding Farmer’s resignation. He was rewarded with a CBE for colluding with the Tories.”

According to the Disability News Service, Ms McKenna wrote to Farmer after hearing of Pollard’s secondment, telling him: “On looking at your strategy for the next five years we see that there is no mention of the devastating welfare reforms that are destroying the lives of many people with mental health problems.

“Are we to take it that you are blissfully unaware of the misery and devastation being visited upon people who live with mental distress?”

She added: “MHRN cannot accept the role that Mind is playing in helping the government push through policies that are deeply damaging to the people you claim to represent.

“We do not recognise you as an ally of people who live with mental health problems and would like to hear what plans you have to redeem yourself in our eyes.”

Vicki Nash, head of policy and campaigns for Mind, said Pollard would be “advising on the most appropriate and effective ways to support and engage with people with mental health problems across a range of policy issues”, and that his “longstanding work on these issues gives him the expertise to advise the DWP”.

She said: “We have long been calling for greater mental health expertise within the department.

“This is a great opportunity to help ensure that these policies are as supportive and effective as possible for people with mental health problems.”

She said that Mind was “politically-neutral” and claimed that it had “continued to push the DWP to reform the WCA through meetings with MPs and civil servants” and through campaign and media work.”

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ian is the personal website of Ian Franks, who is Managing Editor (columns division) of BioNews Services. BioNews is owner of 50 disease-specific news and information websites – including MS News Today. Ian has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.

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