There are some things which need nipping in the bud. Forced psychological treatment for unemployed people is one of them. As is the attempt by the DWP to reframe unemployment as a psychological defect or the result of a ‘negative’ attitude.
Unemployment is caused by a lack of jobs. According to the Office for National Statistics, there are currently 1.81 million unemployed people of working age. In addition to this there are 2.34 million people who are economically inactive and want a job, but do not meet the strict definition of unemployed. This just means they either haven’t actively looked for a job in the last four weeks or would be unable to start a job within two weeks. There are also 1.44 million people who are working part time because they could not find a full time job. That’s over five and a half million people who are under-employed or out of work completely.
Even this doesn’t tell the full story. There is a growing number of people on sickness or disability benefits, as well as lone parents with children under 5, who are expected to prepare and look for work. There are people over pensionable age who are looking for jobs, as well as college and even school students. There are those who’ve dropped through the gaps altogether and neither feature in the counts of people claiming benefits or are likely to fill in the Labour Force Survey from which the unemployment figures are drawn. There are 86,000 prisoners, waiting to join the dole queue on their release.
Equally importantly there is now a European wide labour market. This does not necessarily decrease the overall supply of jobs – immigration also creates jobs, you only need to step into a Polish supermarket to see that. But it does mean that the millions of people in the UK looking for jobs are joined by many more from overseas. There is ample evidence of greedy employers only advertising jobs in Eastern Europe as they know they can get away with offering lower wages. Despite triumphant Tory claims that there are more people in work than ever before, the number of people born in the UK with jobs actually fell slightly in the latest quarter.
All of these people, millions in the UK alone, are chasing just 734,000 vacancies – and the number of jobs available also fell during the last period. Of course people in work, who are looking to change jobs, are also chasing those vacancies. To suggest, when work is so scarce, that unemployment is caused by unemployed people, is offensive and absurd. The truth is that the tiny minority who don’t want a job, who may be carers, volunteers, artists or just too ill to work, are doing everyone else a favour. If you don’t agree then why not give up your own job so someone unemployed can take it.
On Friday a demonstration is due to be held in Streatham where mental health workers are to be brought into the Jobcentre. The Government aplans to introduce Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) therapists into 350 Jobcentres as well providing online Cognitive Behavior Therapy to unemployed, sick and disabled people. They announced before the election that they soon intend to force some claimants to undergo psychological treatment or their benefits will be stopped. This will require significant changes in the law and a Full Employment and Welfare Benefits Bill was announced in the Queen’s Speech. This is not a done deal, there is still time to fight it, and that fight begins on Friday.
Please help spread the word about this protest and come if you can. Already happy-clappy DWP managers are turning Jobcentres into cults, wittering on endlessly about being positive whilst actually making everyone feel like shit. Behind the scenes shadowy ‘behavioral insight’ teams are dreaming up yet more harassment of unemployed people based on the flimsiest of evidence. The rise of the Psychocrat, using psychological therapies to control, not cure, must be halted. A defiant and well attended demonstration this Friday is vital, to show the DWP that this is a line we will not let them cross.
The facebook page for Fridays protest is at: https://www.facebook.com/events/1632671646970164/ Please share, tweet, blog and make sures everyone knows this is taking place and why.
An important paper by Dr Lynne Friedli and Robert Stearn has also recently been published which explores the role of coercion and psychology in welfare-to-work and workfare schemes, you can read it at: http://mh.bmj.com/content/41/1/40.full
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