DWP Work Coaches Suffering From Stress

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The Mental Health Crisis Among Work Coaches: Uncovering the Truth behind Dysfunctional Work Environment


In a shocking revelation, whistleblowers have come forward to expose the dysfunctional and toxic work environment within the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

According to reports more than a third of the work coaches on a single floor of a jobcentre in Oxford experienced a mental health crisis within a span of one year.

The whistleblowers attribute this crisis to the overwhelming workload and policies imposed by the DWP.

The conditions at the Oxford jobcentre became so stressful that 15 out of 23 work coaches from one team resigned within a 12-month period.

This mass exodus was triggered by a sudden increase in workload, which resulted from the preparation for the DWP’s Way to Work Initiative.

The initiative aimed to boost the number of universal credit claimants returning to employment after losing their jobs during the pandemic.

Work coaches at the Oxford jobcentre were instantly burdened with 27 appointments per day, compared to the previous workload of 17 to 19 appointments.

This represented an increase of over 40%. Adding to the pressure, there was also a significant increase in administrative tasks, while the time available to complete them decreased.

These changes were implemented despite the warnings issued by the local PCS union branch, which had received reports of work coaches being under immense stress due to an impossible workload.

The sudden increase in workload took a toll on the mental health of the work coaches. At least eight out of the 15 resigning work coaches experienced a significant collapse in their mental well-being.

The work coaches were forced to cope with back-to-back meetings throughout the day, often lasting just 10 minutes or even less. The pressure to meet the increased demands led to episodes of mental distress, with some work coaches even working through their breaks to catch up on administrative tasks.

The concerns raised by work coaches were not taken seriously by the DWP. Two months before the Way to Work launch, the local PCS union branch had organized online meetings to discuss the mounting concerns.

They had received reports of work coaches logging in during evenings and weekends to cope with the overwhelming workload. These warnings were ignored, and the workload was further increased, leading to the mental health collapses and resignations.

Four former DWP employees who worked at the Oxford jobcentre have come forward to corroborate the allegations.

They have shared their own experiences and provided written evidence to support the claims of the toxic work environment and its impact on the mental well-being of work coaches. One work coach mentioned that the compassionate approach they were trained in was dismissed in pursuit of meeting productivity numbers and statistics.

They observed that the only way to have their workload eased by management was to have a mental breakdown on-site.

The increased workload not only affected the mental health of work coaches but also compromised staff and public safety.

One work coach, worked with violent and sexual offenders who had been released from prison on licence. His significantly higher workload made it increasingly difficult to manage critical safeguarding concerns, which directly compromised staff and public safety.

He repeatedly raised these concerns, including a catalogue of serious safeguarding failings, but the DWP ignored them.

The lack of support and failure to implement reasonable changes had a severe impact on the mental health of work coaches. The coach who attempted a phased return to work with lighter duties, eventually had to resign due to the DWP’s failure to recognize and support his needs.

He described the pressure of handling 27 appointments per day and witnessed colleagues breaking under the immense workload. The toxic work environment and excessive workload caused mental distress and ultimately led to the resignation of numerous work coaches.

One of the major obstacles in addressing these issues is the culture of silence and confidentiality clauses within the DWP.

Whistleblowers and their concerns are tightly wrapped up in confidentiality agreements, hindering transparency and accountability. Without transparency, the department continues to ignore the concerns of its employees, perpetuating a cycle of stress and mental health crises.

When approached the DWP did not deny the mass resignations or the mental health crises experienced by work coaches. However, they asserted their commitment to supporting staff well-being and addressing any raised issues.

The DWP claims to take staff concerns seriously, providing access to a comprehensive range of assistance for physical and mental health, as well as financial well-being. They also stated their legal obligation to cooperate with any investigation requested by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has been criticized for twice rejecting the opportunity to investigate the safety of the working environment at the Oxford jobcentre.

Despite numerous individuals willing to provide evidence, the HSE stated that the concerns raised did not meet their criteria for further investigation.

However, they emphasized that all their decisions are made independently and reminded employers of their duty to prevent work-related stress and support good mental health in the workplace.