Edit: 10:00am 20 July - Frank Zola's also put in a specific FOI request regarding the contract with Start Smiling Again, querying the evidence for the programme - DWP spends £48,000 on Chrysalis Effect, NLP, Hypnosis & Time Line Therapy - 95% success - hat tip @JayneLinney
DWP Hires Miracle Lifestyle Guru Who Claims 95% Success Rate In Curing Mental Health Conditions! on johnnyvoid.wordpress.com
Yesterday I read the above blog post by @johnnyvoid which expressed skepticism and concern that a contract has been awarded by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to "Start Smiling Again" aka David Rahman to support people with mental health issues in returning to work.
According to the Gov.UK website's Contract Finder the contract was awarded in April and will end in December this year (hat tip to @JayneLinney) and is for just under £50,000. Taking a wider perspective, this is a relatively small amount of money however it will be interesting to see how it's leveraged in future, for example the company's marketing website highlights the link with the UK Government (see pic below) and according to MP Justin Tomlinson there is more money available for this sort of thing.
|part of Start Smiling Again's page|
Separately, the Start Smiling Again website also makes some claims about treating people with a variety of health conditions including fibromyalgia, depression and anxiety. These are conditions that would usually be managed under the care of a healthcare professional and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has usually taken an unfavourable view of marketers making claims about treating them, unless they are working very closely with a GP or similar.
Two things interest me but I am focusing on just the second one for the time being.
1. What evidence does the Government / DWP have that this programme works (and how does it compare with other programmes, if any)? - this is something that might require a Freedom of Information request (I've never done one before) but I've asked Justin Tomlinson (the MP for Disabled people, he also features in one of the TV news segments talking about the programme) via Twitter what evidence there is for its adoption in job centres in Wales.
2. The website for Start Smiling Again, which relies heavily on testimonials, makes what I believe to be under-evidenced marketing claims that the treatment can help people with a variety of health conditions.
I asked David Rahman (on Twitter, 18 July) about the evidence for the claims but I've received no answer and as of 19 July the website is suddenly 'under construction' - however everything is currently visible via Google's cache of the pages (for those new to Google cache I recommend using http://cachedview.com/). Below is my draft complaint to the ASA but there may be no point in sending it if the claims on the website are already being addressed, evidenced or removed.
Draft complaint to ASA
The 'Start Smiling Again' website [cache] of David Rahman suggests that through his 'Blueprint Therapy and Coaching (R)' (BTC) he can treat depression, ME and fibromyalgia. I have not been able to find any evidence on the website for this, beyond a series of testimonials and videos with satisfied clients.
Although one testimonial (for depression) highlights that he recommended that the client consult their doctor bforehand, this general advice doesn't seem to appear prominently elsewhere on the website. I do not believe that Mr Rahman is medically trained (his qualifications lie elsewhere, including being a Chrysalis Effect practitioner) and he does not seem to be working closely with healthcare professionals. He has not listed any professional membership on his website.
Claims about depression
On the About page (http://startsmilingagain.com/
On the Depression page (http://startsmilingagain.com/
"Even though you may feel trapped in the negative and seemingly endless cycle of depression, you can rid yourself of these feelings with the right treatment. And you can become depression and medication-free. Depression appears for specific reasons and there are also very definitive reasons why it persists. Once the cause of your depression is identified and correctly addressed, those debilitating and limiting symptoms can and will disappear."
Claims about ME and fibromyalgia
On the testimonial page "I've recovered from ME and fibromyalgia" (http://startsmilingagain.com/
"After only one session with David, I was in a better place mentally than I had been for many years and actually excited about the future. I was already waking up in the mornings without the heavy feeling of dread and actually looking forward to the day ahead."
"Within two weeks of starting therapy, I no longer had any need to use my wheelchair, or even my walking stick. My energy levels were increasing very quickly and my pain was starting to subside."
"By the sixth week, I had reduced my prescribed and very strong pain relief medication by 50%, which was a double positive as every drug has its side effects on your body and I was soon feeling the benefit of no longer pumping them into my system."
[Edit: because the website is currently down and the Google cache may eventually disappear I've added some screenshots at the end of this post.]
Further reading / viewing
Relating to the DWP partnering with Start Smiling Again...
- BBC Wales' Ben Price reports on the new 'Moving Forward' scheme established in Swansea to help people with mental health issues return to work.
"Around 80 people have already taken part in the initiative and, after a successful pilot, it is now being extended."
- ITV news: Job centres to overcome mental health barriers to work. The report highlights the "Press Pause to Play" scheme (I'm not sure why the project names differ but it's the same person / company): Job centres to overcome mental health barriers to work
"A Wales-based company is partnering with the Department for Work and Pensions to roll out an initiative in South Wales job centres. to get people with mental health problems back into work."
- The Wave 96.4FM: Unemployed have reason to smile again
...Justin Tomlinson MP, Minister for Disabled People, added: “This excellent scheme is not only helping jobseekers find work but is also informing wider government activity on mental health. Combined with the recent naming of Swansea as the UK’s first Disability Confident city, it marks out South Wales as part of the country truly leading the way on mental health.
“Supporting people with mental health conditions is a priority for this government. We have allocated over £43 million to pilot services which will help people with such conditions find and stay in work and are determined to continue building on the progress made.”
"David Rahman has a decade of life coaching & therapist experience, based in Cardiff and Harley Street, London. He has painstakingly researched, piloted and delivered the innovative Blueprint Therapy & Coaching model, which has been adapted for Press Pause To Play."
- DWP Hires Miracle Lifestyle Guru Who Claims 95% Success Rate In Curing Mental Health Conditions! by johnnyvoid
- Therapies: References to Medical Conditions from the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) which produces the CAP code on marketing / advertising that the ASA upholds.
"Any claim that a particular therapy can treat or cure a medical condition is unlikely to be acceptable unless the advertiser is considered suitably qualified (Rule 12.2) and holds robust evidence to support the efficacy claim (Rule 12.1)."
Screenshots - click to enlarge
Qualifications and accreditations