Into the system…

blogging, work, mental health, therapy, disability, benefits and more…

Pathways to Work…

with 27 comments

A couple of days ago I got a letter from the local jobcentre asking me to come in for a “Pathways to Work” interview in two weeks time. The Pathways to Work scheme is designed to get people of incapacity benefits (IB or ESA) and back into work. It is geared at people who do not have jobs and the support offered is all about work experience, improving skills and finding a job. For someone who already has a job but is just too unwell to work, this is obviously a complete waste of time.

The literature that came with the letter was even more frustrating. There were a number of “success stories” of disabled people who had successfully got into work through the Pathways to Work scheme. The disappointing thing was all of these people had got minimum wage jobs in local supermarkets, washing dishes in kitchens or working in DIY stores. There were no teachers, lawyers or accountants. No doctors, nurses or IT consultants. No one was in a managerial position. Everyone was in a basic entry-level role, with few prospects for career progression and no doubt earning very little. I know for some people, a job in a supermarket is a massive achievement, but for many it is a massive step down. Not everyone on incapacity benefit has had a poor education or learning difficulties. Some of these people are highly intelligent, highly employable and have been previously very successful until they became ill or disabled. Surely these leaflets are not providing a positive image of disability? The leaflets should be saying, “look, you’re disabled but that doesn’t mean you can’t be successful and get a great job”. Instead they seem to say, “Oh, you’re disabled so you are obviously only capable of stacking shelves in a supermarket”. It is as if disabled people aren’t worthy of aspirations and successful careers.

This poor image of disability is reinforced by the services offered. Improve your CV. Training opportunities to improve your skills and employability. Work placements and buddy schemes. Money for attending job interviews. All of these things suggest that disabled people aren’t employable and need all the help they can get to find a job. Disabled people clearly aren’t capable of thinking for themselves and writing their own CVs. It may be true that in the current climate everyone looking for a job needs help, but this all seems very patronising and demeaning.

The other impression you get from the leaflets was the familiar story that people on incapacity benefit should just pull themselves together and get to work. There was a real sense of the Government’s displeasure about people being on disability benefits. On the first page it states that Pathways to Work is a key part of the Government’s plans to get one million people off incapacity benefits by 2015. Is it really feasible that one million people will recover from their disabilities? In theory it would be great if one million people became well enough to get back into work, but to me, the answer is not Pathways to Work. The answer is improved health care; quicker access to therapy for mental health patients, shorter waiting times for knee or hip joint replacements, more research into treatment for conditions like fibromyalgia, MS and chronic fatigue syndrome. People need successful treatment and support that will help them to recover and manage their condition. Help finding a job or gaining work experience isn’t going to make them well. Yes, working can improve well being and confidence, but for many it is just not an option.

27 Responses

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  1. That is an awful thing to send out to people. I completely understand your outrage and frankly I agree with you. Did they have a complaints number?


    Tuesday, 29th September 2009 at 2:51 pm

    • Karen – No there is an 0845 number for more information, but nothing listed for complaints. I guess I could try that but object to paying them to complain.

      It’s a localised leaflet, so I’m not sure if any of the national ones are any better. Might look into it if I can be bothered.


      Tuesday, 29th September 2009 at 4:58 pm

  2. I have been asked before if I want to go on the pathways to nowhere where they try and get you into any job. I find it upsetting whenever I see disabled people in work they never get good jobs, its always cleaners in shopping centres, cleaning up other peoples crap in Mcdonald’s or pushing trolleys in Tesco/B&Q car park. I am on IB myself and have an acquired brain injury. Is this the future?.


    Tuesday, 29th September 2009 at 3:40 pm

    • Richard – Thanks for your comment. You are lucky in that you are not a new claimant and therefore forced to go on Pathways to Work. Anyone claiming ESA now has no choice but to comply. I suspect it won’t take long for them to enforce it on all incapacity benefit claimers.

      You are right that disabled people are rarely seen in good jobs. I too find it frustrating.

      There are exceptions, but few and far between. My employer (a big american corporation) are fantastic and do have a positive attitude to disability. It is nice to see a few disabled people working in great jobs. Sadly though out of the small disabled community at work a lot of us are still on sick leave or have been for a considerable amount of time during some point of their careers. All have been held back due to their disability even if not by discrimination – just circumstance. We are also still a tiny tiny group compared to the number of employees in the company. They are completing a equal-opportunities census in the company at the moment so it will be interesting to see the figures on disability.


      Tuesday, 29th September 2009 at 5:09 pm

  3. It annoys me how they have these happy smiley people on the leaflets for the pathways scheme but are they real disabled people or are they just posed for the pictures.


    Tuesday, 29th September 2009 at 3:44 pm

  4. Wonderful post, I couldn’t have worded that better, you should consider sending that to your MP and for that matter the Prime Minster! :)


    Tuesday, 29th September 2009 at 4:45 pm

    • Thanks Alison. I am considering raising my objections further but am not sure I can be bothered wasting my breath. It’s not like they will listen sadly.


      Tuesday, 29th September 2009 at 5:10 pm

      • Very true, I think back to the amount of times I spoke to the police over complaints with neighbours over harassment and involving my MP and how little they did. Of course we read in the paper this week about the Mother and Daughter suicide because of 10 years of abuse (mine was six years!) and suddenly MP’s are crawling out of the woodwork and the police are apologising left right and centre… too little too late! :(


        Wednesday, 30th September 2009 at 7:59 pm

  5. Thanks for your story, I had a breadown in March through pressures at work and low income, since June been on ESA, despite my doctor stating not fit for work, I was sent for an assesement with a doctor when questioned on his qualifications for a mental ill health diagnos became most agitated with me. I failed the test with nil point, and informed me I would no longer receive ESA, I have appealed and am awaiting yet another assesment. I have attended two pathways to work sessions, my C.V. checked and improved. have seen the healthy options nurse who is sending me on an interviewing course. I am attending as suggested by the DWP a MIND aspirations course which is teaching me nothing.They have suggested I go on an Anger management course, I am sure you can see the irony in this. I was training to become a counsellor before the big bang ,over the past two years I have had something like 50 weeks off with depression and stress. My doctor says I am not ready to work, I cannot get any more counselling as I cannot pay for it on £64.30p per week. Apart from the fact that the DWP have no concern over your actual mental state whatsoever, I am a statistic and Mr.Cameron you are a bit late with the idea that when you get in “Off with the heads of the lazy whatsits on ESA, get off your bums go to work and save us £25.00pw. The DWP worked fast to get me off before the 13 weeks were up, Because I would have to have been put on the next level of an extra £ so MR.Cameron the government already got there. As far as work is concerned what am I likely to get a special placement in Sainsburies stacking the shelves or washing up in a canteen. After all I have mental unwell ness and therefore incapable of any intelligent work. Perhaps we should start our own company sorry if this seems angry it is, its just what you need when you ill isnt.


    Monday, 5th October 2009 at 11:33 pm

    • It sounds like a familiar story.

      Everyone that is on ESA has to go for a medical. I don’t know why they can’t take the word from our GPs that we are not fit for work, but they don’t.

      I hope the appeal goes okay. I know over 50% of appeals are successful (which says a lot!) so I hope yours will be.

      You are right about the types of work they DWP seem to think disabled people are capable of. It’s frustrating. There is actually support to start your own business though, although how you go about getting it is another matter.

      I think they just make you go on courses so they can say they are trying to help. It doesn’t actually matter if they are useful.

      I’m concerned they will try and make me find another “easier” job instead of returning to my existing job, which is high stress.


      Tuesday, 6th October 2009 at 4:35 pm

  6. I get really angry when it’s suggested that all I can do is wash dishes or clean up crap as well. I have a good, demanding, satisfying job, which I will be going back to. You should’ve seen the look on the medic’s face when they asked me my profession in hospital in 2008 and I told them. Mentalists are supposed to all be on benefits or doing shitty jobs cleaning up dog poo for the council.
    The message: we tolerate the disabled in these unimportant positions, but letting one of them do something responsible is a different story altogether.

    DeeDee Ramona

    Tuesday, 10th November 2009 at 6:35 pm

  7. BTW I have quoted this entry on a post on mentalnurse.

    DeeDee Ramona

    Wednesday, 11th November 2009 at 4:53 pm

  8. This definitely would have made me sick 6 months ago…now I think I’d welcome something like that, a shitty job. I can’t get one now because I’m so bizarrely overqualified.


    Saturday, 14th November 2009 at 2:14 pm

  9. the government need to get their heads out of their arses im on the verge of suicide and im serious
    i have depression & anxety with sleep disorder
    if im forced into anything its on their heads!


    Tuesday, 8th December 2009 at 10:33 pm

  10. I for 1 am actually looking forward to Pathways scheme, support in getting a job is just what i need, i guess all the negative comments are from people who don’t want to work with there ‘mental’ problems as after having many operations to try and fix my spine i was never questioned over my ability to work guess they already know who the fakers are……


    Friday, 11th December 2009 at 11:49 am

    • The reason I object to Pathways is because of the way it belittles disability. There seems to be this expectation that you are not capable of a good career and the only thing that is stopping you from working is the lack of a CV, which is ridiculous.

      Yes for some pathways may be helpful, but I think a lot of people have found that they just have to turn up and it is a complete waste of time. It is a case of the government paying lip service.

      Job hunting information is available elsewhere anyway. Surely most people if they are well enough to be looking for work, should be on Jobseekers, not incapacity? If you are on incapacity you should by definition be too ill to work.

      I think if you read the rest of my blog you would soon realise I really do want to work, but I am too unwell to do so. My job is open for me and I will go back as soon as I am allowed. I love my job and miss it so much.

      The DWP didn’t question my ability to work either. After my medical I have been placed in the Support Group, which shows there is no way I could work right now.

      More importantly, I really object to your inverted commas around the word mental. Mental illness is a very real and potentially very serious condition. It kills thousands of people a year and can be deeply debilitating. I suggest you read:


      Friday, 11th December 2009 at 6:05 pm

  11. I got a letter this morning from the job centre “Pathways to Work”. They where almost demanding i go to the interview. To basically, look for work and get a job. Im a sevier epileptic and have agraphobia. Id love not to have those conditions but i do! I had 14 seizures in one day last week. “Help finding a job or gaining work experience isn’t going to make them well. Yes, working can improve well being and confidence, but for many it is just not an option”. I second that. They seem to forget that some people just cant work.


    Friday, 11th December 2009 at 6:26 pm

  12. My experience of Pathways To Work is through my partner, a qualified Occupational Therapist with a disability. Her treatment by pathways has been really bad, they had failed to inform her she could have claimed £100 for help with clothes etc for interviews, they have now lost her application for for Return To Work twice and expect her to go in and fill in another at her cost, they have cancelled appointments and worst of all, despite her getting a job off her own back with NO help from pathways, they rang her employer without her permission asking to come and see them about her and her job!!! If I have my way there will be a stern letter of complaint going their way shortly, but to who? I assume they must follow the JCP service standards?


    Monday, 11th January 2010 at 2:22 pm

    • Hi I am slightly worried as I have been on severe disablement allowance for the last 10 years after spening time in hospital for severe depression. I have just had some great counselling which is now enabling me to leave the home and do a couple of social things each week. My counselor gave me the imformation for pathways, which is connnected to the NHS service,and said they may help me to get some basic support so that in about 18 months when I am ready to work they will be able to help me find work….the counselor things I will be ready in another 18 months if I continue as I am but wants me to phone now to see if i can start courses to help me progress to this. I am worried they will try and get me into work straght away and then I will end up back so bad I could be placed in hospital again. I am being overy worried will they help me to get there slowly or will they push as I think they will. Please let me know what your experience is with regards to the help they offer.


      Monday, 22nd February 2010 at 1:03 pm

  13. Having read the comments I get a strong feeling that there is a strength of feeling around status at work. The pathways to work interviewers need your opinions, the government needs to know and any decision makers that are spending huge sums of money on schemes like this. If you are capable of doing more than low status jobs let everyone know and see what happens :)

    Janice Marlow

    Monday, 22nd February 2010 at 4:12 pm

  14. […] was reading IntoTheSystem’s blog yesterday and this post here touched a nerve. It’s something that Clare Allan has also alluded to in her column, the […]

    Not-So-Great Expectations « Mental Nurse

    Wednesday, 24th March 2010 at 10:19 pm

  15. Hi I read this blog with great interest

    I have been on ESA about a year now, I have to see someone in pathways approx every 2 weeks.

    I’m grateful that the government has given me the opportunity to attend these meetings as the pathways team have been helpful in encouraging me but sadly little else. They know all about my professional background and achievements and yet after a year seeing them I get offered nothing more than a cleaning job for an hour a day on minimum wage.

    This in my mind is insulting for someone who is highly skilled and capable of much more.

    I think it seems to me that the whole of the DWP are more about achieving targets and form filling than helping people seek gainful employment.


    Wednesday, 27th October 2010 at 8:29 pm

    • Thanks for your comment. It is really interesting to hear your experience of this.

      I can imagine it is really frustrating that they are not offering you what you need and that they are so insulting.

      I agree that support for people trying to get back in to work after illness or with disability is important, but it should be a lot better focussed. I was angry at the way the DWP insults disabled people and implies that they are lazy if they don’t just take the first job there is.

      The DWP doesn’t care what job you get as long as you are off the benefit. They will insist that if you can’t do a higher-skilled job, you should just take the step down and put up with what they offer you. I think this is unfair but also unwise – certainly in the case of mental health, doing something boring and easy if you are someone that is bright and ambitious is only likely to make you ill again.

      There’s also the fact that they only really forge links with organisations like supermarkets and B&Q. They don’t expect anyone to do anything other than that, so don’t offer any alternative. There are no investment banks signed up to pathways to work – but there are people that could work for one!


      Thursday, 28th October 2010 at 8:43 am

    • BTW – good luck with your job search. I hope you do find something fulfilling and that meets your skill set and you aren’t just forced into stacking shelves.


      Thursday, 28th October 2010 at 8:44 am

  16. The interview was horrible. They ordered a taxi to pick me up because I have problem with getting up and my co-ordination and memory due to tablets I am taking. I was put in the work related group but they do not expect me to go to the back to work scheme. They expect me to get better some time in future. Their problem is communication because they think they are signing people off to incapacity forever or short to medium term.

    Fortunately, I was able to explain my problem in detail to fit the questions. I have severe dental problems and facial pain. I explained in graphic detail what it’s like and that it completely incapacitates me. If I don’t take the tablets, I am not able to move at all except my finger tips and i can’t talk or eat. If I take the tablets they make me dizzy and lose co-ordination. I was able to walk and do most of the things he asked except bend down.
    I went to a centre that helps people get back to work and they were great. Not all of them are great so speak to your job centre about the options. The pathways scheme can be terrible. There are other options. I went to 2 centres. I didn’t like the first one so I went to another one Ingeus, who have partnerships with business. They are “really” helping me. I plan to start 2 days per week for a while and hope this helps. I would never be able to do this alone. Searching employment sights is depressing and so was the pathways to work scheme. It’s really heavy. People need light work in an office environment not heavy duty manual work! Find out about organisations in your area that help disabled people. Maybe you can ask your job centre to refer you if necessary.


    Tuesday, 5th April 2011 at 12:12 am

  17. Being physically fit is essential when seeking employment and that applies to disabled people also, allowing for their disability of course. One can be disabled in a wheelchair yet be physically well enough to manoeuvre and manage on wheels.

    Anyone, who has not being active for any significant time, needs to exercise regularly for a short period prior to venturing out and about in search of work, no matter how young they are. It makes all the difference mentally and physically. Unemployed often means being in a rut and staying home for most of the time when even going to the shops over-tires and annoys. Getting free of this is essential and prospective employers know when they see someone whether they are of the right frame of mind. Too tired looking, a not-caring attitude, and looking depressed, puts them off.

    Looking for a job at any time is difficult and each refusal or failed attempt adds to the stress. I’m sure sheets are supplied that can be signed and stamped by prospective employers that show proof of trying and this can be a great help to keeping from giving up or getting depressed. If you can ride a bike the task can be easier and the sheets filled more numerous.

    Word of mouth however, should not be ignored and asking friends or acquaintances who are working or even strangers in local shops etc. often proves more successful than actually travelling to company premises that have no job-seeking notices in their windows or cards at local centres. Above all, being fit is important to employers’ first impressions as it dispels the natural reaction of thinking whether this person is going to sleep on the job or be slow at doing everything asked, when they act older than they look. One can tell a lot about people, even in wheelchairs, from the attitude and degree of alertness displayed by body talk.

    The tone of the comments prompted this reply from a pensioner so I hope it can be helpful. There was a surprising lack of appreciation for the increased income one gets from work, which hinted at fear rather than not wanting a job as being the cause. Being fit and healthy can dispel fear and nervousness and boost confidence so should be a prime objective when considering getting back to work and financial independence. And it costs nothing.

    Michael McPhillips (@MchlMcPhillips)

    Thursday, 23rd February 2012 at 5:14 pm

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