Scan000071aA letter a day to number 10. No 949

Thursday 18 December 2014.

Dear Mr Cameron,

I have been waiting for an opportunity to raise today’s issue. As is often the case, issues related to the policies and actions of your government and government departments do not submit easily to analysis or discussion in the profound effects they can and do have in people’s lives.

What has highlighted this is a report of a letter (attached) received by a woman with terminal cancer from a company called ‘Prospects’ who are contracted to deliver the Work Programme for Bristol Jobcentreplus. The letter is confusing and ambiguous, but mandates that the woman concerned makes herself available for a 1:1 (an inappropriately used mathematical expression of ratio for one to one in real speak) phone interview with Prospect. Quite aside from what a woman with terminal cancer is doing on the Work Programme, the letter is unnecessarily officious, if not downright predatory in tone, and has no hint of human concern or consideration. Given the amount of work that has been done in the area of ‘user friendly’ communication across a wide range of businesses and services, this cannot be considered to be accidental or undertaken in ignorance.

The growing use of phone contact only by the DWP and their contractors is, like the bedroom tax, an unwelcome intrusion into the personal living space and lives of ordinary people and is disempowering for people where the conversation is routinely recorded by the DWP or contractors and where recording, assistance and representation is made difficult, if not impossible, for the recipients.

For people already under pressure from the inhuman practices of the DWP and contractors this is yet more unwarranted yet deliberate pressure on the lives of vulnerable people. In addition, for people with mental health issues the added pressure can be intolerable, hence the growing numbers of benefits related suicides. As someone with serious mental health issues, friends and family know that I always screen  calls, phones, like windows and doorbells, are a constant threat to my fragile stability, but, of course, no allowance, let alone understanding, is made for that by your government, the DWP or its contractors.

This is faceless bureaucracy intruding into the privacy of the homes and security of the most vulnerable people. It is as inexcusable and as it is unwarranted and insensitive. Given that you have a Nudge Unit and highly paid PR teams at your disposal and that, in politics, nothing happens by accident, I would say that involuntary suicide, if not induced genocide, should enter the public lexicon regarding the activities of your government.