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DWP publishes second research report on Incapacity Benefit reforms and Personal advisers, finding unmanageable workloads affect their ability to identify risk and provide support to people in distress.

What: The research found continued concerns, with Personal advisers finding the role being emotionally draining; tension between the “compulsion” element of the role i.e. using sanctions, and the “enabler” role to support people in finding work; and concerns that job entry targets could influence advisers to “prioritise customers likely to give a ‘quick win’, above those needing longer term support to return to work” and that referral targets might lead to referrals being made that are not in the client’s best interest. Advisers also talk about unmanageable workloads, which leads to ‘compassion fatigue’, affecting “their ability to demonstrate empathy and pick up on signals”. They also report feeling “out of their depth” and “an acute sense of responsibility” when working with clients who are suicidal or have complex mental health issues. Yet they also experience a lack of training and support in dealing with the emotional pressures of the role.

Why significant: Shows continued concerns from advisers about their capacity to support clients experiencing mental health issues and suicidality, and the risk that increased workload is likely to lead them to miss important signals in supporting people in distress.


DWP Research Reports 1990-2009, The National Archives
Green Paper: A New Deal for Welfare: empowering people to work, Alison Ravetz, 2006