The Elephant in the Room Series Three: Channel 4: Benefit Busters; A4e and the Sykes brothers


Image | belgianchocolate | Creative Commons


APA    DSM    DSM-IV    DSM-V    WHO    ICD    ICD-10    ICD-11    American Psychiatric Association    Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders    World Health Organization    Classifications    DSM Revision Process    DSM-V Task Force    DSM-V Somatic Distress Disorders Work Group    Somatic Symptom Disorders Work Group    DSM-ICD Harmonization Coordination Group    International Advisory Group    Revision of ICD Mental and Behavioural Disorders    Global Scientific Partnership Coordination Group    ICD Update and Revision Platform    WHO Collaborating Centre    CISSD Project    MUPSS Project    Somatoform    Somatisation    Somatization    Functional Somatic Syndromes    FSS    MUS    Myalgic encephalomyelitis    ME    Chronic fatigue syndrome    CFS    Fibromyalgia    FM    IBS    CS    CI    GWS

The Elephant in the Room Series Three:

Channel 4: Benefit Busters, A4e and the Sykes brothers

WordPress Shortlink for this posting: 

The CISSD Project (Conceptual Issues in Somatoform and Similar Disorders), co-ordinated by Dr Richard Sykes, PhD, between 2003 and 2007, and administered by UK patient organisation, Action for M.E., was funded by The Hugh and Ruby Sykes Charitable Trust to the tune of £62,750.

The recommendations of the CISSD Project and papers that resulted out of its workshops have fed into the revision processes towards DSM-V and ICD-11.

Dr Sykes is currently engaged in the London Medically Unexplained Physical Symptoms and Syndromes (MUPSS) Project for which he receives a research award from the Institute of Psychiatry for £27,000 per year.

This award is also funded by a grant from The Hugh and Ruby Sykes Charitable Trust.

We are still waiting for the ME Association and for Action for M.E. to provide analyses of the CISSD Project and commentary on the DSM and ICD revision processes.

I call upon both organisations to report on the nature and purpose of the MUPSS Project, too, for it is not yet known how the MUPSS Project is being carried out, who is involved in it or who its stakeholders are, but Dr Sykes is reported as having said that the Project has relevance to “all conditions characterised by medically unexplained symptoms, not just CFS/ME”.

Virtually nothing is known at present other than that the Project relates to what Dr Sykes perceives as “medically unexplained symptoms (MUS)” and that he includes within this category, “CFS/ME”.

Dr Richard Sykes and Sir Hugh Sykes are brothers.

Sir Hugh Sykes is a non executive director of A4e (Action for Employment) – the largest European provider of Welfare to Work programmes.

For links for information on A4e see:  The WHO Somatisation Project: The Elephant in the Room Part Six

Sir Hugh has authored pamphlets for the right-wing think-tank “Politeia”, see:

“Politeia, a forum for social and economic thinking, opened in November 1995 as a focus for thinking on social and economic policy. Its aim is to encourage reflection, discussion and debate about the place of the state in the daily lives of men and women across the range of issues which affect them, from employment and tax to education, health and pensions.”

Current areas for work include:

Tax and benefits: a fairer framework for incentives;
The potential consequences of the Euro or other European measures for British social and economic policy, employment, taxation and trade;
International comparisons of educational standards;
Policies for high employment: the role of the state, the employer and the employee;
Covering for lost income: health, long term care, pensions and unemployment Welfare reform, pensions, benefits and taxation;
Constitutional change and stability;
Policing in the UK”

Sir Hugh is the author of

“Working for Benefit”
Hugh Sykes

Although it continues to fall, unemployment remains a serious problem both economically and socially. Does it not make better sense, asks Hugh Sykes, to pay people to work than, as the present benefits system does, to remain idle? The workfare scheme he proposes here would achieve a reduction of at least 200,000 in unemployment over three years. Developing from and extending the government’s own schemes, it is – unlike other schemes suggested by left and right – both straightforward and detailed enough to be put into practice immediately. It gives incentives to employers to create, and to the unemployed to take, real productive jobs, whilst also providing opportunity to work where such jobs are not available. NERA, the leading experts on the economies of workfare, have provided technical advice and data for the scheme.”


“Welfare to Work – The New Deal: Maximising the Benefits”
Hugh Sykes

The New Deal – the government’s welfare to work scheme – aims to increase employment in the long term by helping some of the unemployed to become more employable, thereby increasing the pool of effective labour and so facilitating sustainable economic expansion. Sir Hugh Sykes, until recently Chairman of the Sheffield Development Corporation, welcomes the scheme and its aims. But, he argues, there are serious problems in implementing the scheme which should be urgently addressed. The fact that the scheme does not aim to create new jobs in the short term will cause widespread disappointment, unless the public is given a better understanding of the scheme’s aims. Sir Hugh also contends that the scheme should aim at short-term job creation – something which will be possible if it can be flexibly implemented in the regions, rather than rigidly run from the centre, and if it takes proper account of regional and local priorities.”


Later this month, Channel 4 begins a series called “Benefit Busters”:

Benefit Busters

Series Summary

In 2009, Britain will pay out more in benefits than it raises in income tax. Welfare and pension payments cost more than education, health or defence.

Now, as the government attempts to revolutionise the welfare system – controversially rewarding private companies according to their ability to coax people off benefits and into jobs – this documentary series follows the people on both sides of this new welfare state.

Watch again on:

Series | Episode 1 | Benefit Busters  [48 mins]

Hayley Taylor’s job is to persuade single mothers on benefits to go back to work.

The company she works for, A4E, which is helping to tackle the Government’s target of getting 70 per cent of lone parents into paid work by 2010, is the largest welfare reform company in the world.

A4E is run by multimillionaire entrepreneur Emma Harrison, who believes her business is ‘improving people’s lives by getting them into work.’

Until recently, the 700,000 lone parents receiving benefit didn’t have to look for work until their youngest child was 16. Soon, they must either work, or be looking for work, once their youngest child is seven.

At Doncaster A4E, Hayley runs a course called Elevate that aims to give lone parents the skills and confidence to enter the workplace and convince them they’ll be better off doing so. Cameras follow her group of ten single mothers during their intensive six-week course to prepare them for work.

Next Episode: Thu 20 Aug, 9PM on Channel 4, Monday 24 August 4AM Channel 4


Series 1 | Episode 2 | Benefit Busters

Unemployment is rife in Hull, but for one company business is booming: A4E has won the lucrative contract to help get the long-term unemployed back to work. Mark Pilkington is an ex-soldier who hasn’t worked for 10 years. He welcomes help and within a fortnight he finds a job. But the joy of receiving his first pay cheque is short-lived; after just four weeks a business downturn results in Mark being laid off.

Facing a return to A4E and potentially a four-week wait to restart his benefit payments, Mark begins to wonder if there is more security in a life on benefits.

It appears to be a shockingly common perception amongst the clients at A4E, who are at the mercy of an increasingly casual labour market.

Date Time Channel
Thursday 27 August 9PM Channel 4


Series 1 | Episode 3 | Benefit Busters

One of the government’s targets is to shift one million people off long-term sickness benefits and get them back to work.

In Oldham, the charity Shaw Trust* has won the contract to implement this policy.

Sherrie Jepson, a former car saleswoman, has the job of selling the idea of employment to people who were previously considered too sick to work.

Keiron Tandy fell from a third-floor balcony while celebrating his 18th birthday in Turkey. He has metal pins in his back and has restricted mobility.

His family doctor had confirmed him as ‘unfit for work’ but under the new system he’s examined by an independent medical examiner employed by a private health care company, which will determine whether he is fit enough to return to work. Meanwhile, Sherrie starts to try to convince Keiron that he could work if a suitable job that allowed for his condition could be found.

*The Shaw Trust


Shaw Trust accounts show crippling cost of DWP contracts

By John Plummer | Third Sector Online |10 August 2009

Charity blames Pathways to Work programme for huge deficit

The Shaw Trust made a £2.8m loss in 2008/09 compared with a surplus of £7.4m the previous year, according to its annual report.

The charity, which is the largest voluntary sector provider of employment services for disabled people, blamed the loss on the huge start-up costs involved in delivering Pathways to Work programmes on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions.

“The DWP funding structure is making it more difficult for charities to deliver services,” said Catherine A’Bear, chief officer for corporate affairs at the trust.

“We are one of the few charities still in the business of providing services for disabled people under DWP contracts, and when you see how heavily we have had to invest in it you can see why.”

She said the start-up costs involved in setting up services and recruiting staff for Pathways to Work were so high that private companies were increasingly the only ones that could afford to bid. “The voluntary sector is seen as a sub-contractor,” said A’Bear.

The trust’s annual income increased by £8.48m to £81.39m during the same period, of which £45.8m came from the DWP. But this was offset by rising costs. Wages and salaries rose from £37m to £43m.

John Briffitt, chairman of the trust, says in the annual report: “There’s no denying that the Shaw Trust’s financial performance, like that of many other organisations in our field, has been adversely affected by the challenging economic environment.”

He said “past prudence” had built up sufficient cash resources to help it cope.

The 2008/09 financial year was a turbulent one for the trust, with chief executive Ian Charlesworth put on gardening leave pending dismissal in July 2008. The annual accounts say he resigned on 12 December.


For information on the development of DSM-V which is to be harmonised for congruency with ICD-11, and on the CISSD Project, see:

Compiled by Suzy Chapman