Unemployment a Mental Health Problem to Solve by “Psycho-Compulsion”?
Panopticon: Model for DWP ‘Mental Health’ Surveillance of Unemployed.
Hat-tip to Benefit Tales.
The BBC reports,
Unemployment is being “rebranded” by the government as a psychological disorder, a new study claims.
Those that do not exhibit a “positive” outlook must undergo “reprogramming” or face having their benefits cut, says the Wellcome Trust-backed report.
This can be “humiliating” for job seekers and does not help them find suitable work, the researchers say.
From Medical Humanities.
The paper, ” focuses on the coercive uses of psychology in UK government workfare programmes: as an explanation for unemployment (people are unemployed because they have the wrong attitude or outlook) and as a means to achieve employability or ‘job readiness’ (possessing work-appropriate attitudes and beliefs). The discourse of psychological deficit has become an established feature of the UK policy literature on unemployment and social security and informs the growth of ‘psychological conditionality’—the requirement to demonstrate certain attitudes or attributes in order to receive benefits or other support, notably food.i In addition, positive affect is routinely imposed in workfare programmes via the content of mandatory training courses and through job centre or contractor ‘messaging’, for example, motivational tweets or daily positive emails to claimants”
This is interesting as well:
Psycho-compulsion, defined as the imposition of psychological explanations for unemployment, together with mandatory activities intended to modify beliefs, attitude, disposition or personality, has become a more and more central feature of activating the unemployed and hence of people’s experience of unemployment. There has been little debate about the recruitment of psychology—and, by implication, psychologists—into monitoring, modifying and punishing people who claim social security benefits47 ,48 or research into the impact of mandatory positive affect on an expanding range of ‘unproductive’ or failing citizens:16 those who are out of work, not working enough, not earning enough and/or failing to seek work with sufficient application.
This is of even greater interest!
Boycott workfare: history of a campaign
While there is considerable evidence of this hardening of public attitudes towards benefit claimants, the value of mandatory unpaid work activity and enforced ‘volunteering’ is strongly contested. There are numerous campaigning and claimant solidarity groups in the UK and the rest of Europe whose activities are concentrated in this area. One is Boycott Workfare, which evolved through the work of people who have experienced workfare in the UK. Formed in 2010, it is a movement that campaigns against the imposition of forced, unpaid work on several levels: by taking action to expose the involvement of companies and other entities in taking or arranging placements or providing mandatory training, and by acting as a point of information for claimants and other claimants’ organisations:We expose and take action against companies and organisations profiting from workfare; encourage organisations to pledge to boycott it; and actively inform people of their rights.67
Informing people of their rights means proposing a model of activity opposed to and subversive of the ‘activated’ welfare subject.
Undoing the legitimacy conferred on workfare, in part by its association with psychology, is a central concern of the campaign, as is counteracting the variously inflected negative stereotype of unemployed people. The ‘naming and shaming’ of organisations participating in workfare has led large numbers to withdraw and is a central factor in DWP efforts not to publish names of those involved. For example, the DWP argued (in appealing the Information Commissioner’s decision that they must publish the names of companies involved in Mandatory Work Activity) that making this information public “would have been likely to have led to the collapse of the […] scheme”.68,69 Concerns that mandatory placements undermine the meaning of volunteering have also led many voluntary agencies to sign a ‘keep volunteering voluntary’ agreement, undertaking not to take part in workfare schemes.70
As is the conclusion:
The participation of psychology and psychologists in the delivery of coercive goals in welfare reform clearly raises ethical questions.
Now comes the inevitable response (via the BBC):
The DWP said Friedli and Stearns’ report had no basis in fact and was just relying on anecdotal evidence from blogs and social media.
“We know that being unemployed can be a difficult time, which is why our Jobcentre staff put so much time and effort into supporting people back into work as quickly as possible,” said a DWP spokesman.
“We offer support through a range of schemes so that jobseekers have the skills and experience that today’s employers need.”
The government plans to place 350 psychologists in job centres by the end of the summer to help benefit claimants beat depression and get back into the jobs market.
Claimants will also be offered online cognitive behavioural therapy to boost their “employability”.
The DWP should get out of its comfort zone, end this unhealthy spiral of denial, and face up to its own cognitive and behavioural problems.