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Forced psychiatric treatment for welfare recipients

13 September 2008 - Municipalities including Amsterdam put pressure on welfare recipients to undergo psychiatric therapy, reports press agency GPD. Experts are shocked and say that doing so may be counter-effective.

Marc van Hoof, a lawyer working for social assistance recipients' organisation Bijstandsbond, says that one of his clients was told to report to psychiatric care institution Mentrum for treatment. "If he'd stop now, he might lose his benefit after all".

Psychologist Ad Kerkhof says that many social assistance recipients have already undergone 'twenty' therapies. Offering yet another therapy might cause them to break down.

The work protocols of the Amsterdam welfare agency state that clients may be urged to undergo treatment, but that they will 'in principle' not be forced to do so. "We prefer to motivate people to do so", a spokesperson told the GPD.

The Social Assistance Act states that municipalities may force clients to get medical treatment if this is considered a necessary condition to re-enter the labour market. However, before doing so, they must get medical advice.

Tof Thissen, director of a national organisation of welfare agencies, is in favour of forced psychiatric treatment, arguing that this is better than forcing manic-depressive people to work.

Amsterdam is talking with psychiatric care institutions about exchanging information on clients, so as to be able to deal with clients more effectively.

Source: GPD / Jacqueline Steenwijk (in Dutch)


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