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Workfare in UK – The ‘psychological resistance’ to work test

Firstly, an article published in Medical Humanities suggested that people claiming unemployment benefits are being coerced in to undertaking psychological interventions. The research, which drew largely on personal testimonies, suggests unemployment is seen as a personal failure and psychological deficit.No excuses

Both authors of the paper, Lynne Friedli and Robert Stearn, are members of campaign group Boycott Workfare. This group works to stop ‘work-for-your-benefits’ schemes where people are made to work for free with potential sanctions on receipt of their benefits if they do not comply.

Friedli and Stearn suggest psychology is being used by the government to explain unemployment (that people have the wrong attitude for work) and as a means to achieve the ‘right’ attitude for job readiness. The report describes the role of ‘psycho-compulsion’ which it defines as the imposition of psychological explanations of unemployment and mandatory activities which are aimed at changing beliefs, attitudes and disposition. Friedli and Stearn write that some Workfare contractors that run training programmes, such as A4e, focus on psychological or ‘soft outcomes’ which treat gaining a job as something which can be achieved by having the right attitude. The authors write: ‘Izzy Koksal, in her blog on the experience of A4e training, describes the impact of being surrounded by motivational quotes, with their persistent emphasis on individual responsibility for unemployment and the perils of negative thinking.’

They also refer to a recently-announced scheme in which claimants will undergo interviews which will assess whether they have a ‘psychological resistance’ to work, as well as profiling to test if they are ‘ bewildered, despondent or determined’. The people it deems to be less mentally fit, the authors write, will be given more intensive coaching than those viewed as optimistic – such as graduates or those recently made redundant.

A DWP spokesman told the BBC that Friedli and Stearns’ report was not based on fact but rather 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. We offer support through a range of schemes so that jobseekers have the skills and experience that today’s employers need,’ he said.

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at Is unemployment being rebranded a psychological disorder? | The Psychologist.

The source : Stop labelling unemployment as a psychological disorder – opinion – 07 July 2015 – New Scientist

A banner draped from a London job centre window declares: “Back to work therapy is no therapy at all.” It’s a protest against government plans to integrate employment and mental health support for benefit claimants. This includes putting 350 psychological therapists into centres and pushing online therapy to the jobless.

Unemployment is being redefined as a psychological disorder at a time when the UK government has pledged to cut the welfare bill by £12 billion. In the UK and other rich nations such as Australia and the US, welfare claimants are increasingly required to comply with interventions intended to modify their emotions, beliefs and personality.

While the option of free access to therapy for the unemployed makes sense, what is taking place is psychological conditionality. Claimants must demonstrate characteristics considered desirable in a job candidate – such as confidence and enthusiasm – in return for welfare.

The Department for Work and Pensions has denied that anyone will lose benefits if they refuse therapy. But the Conservatives’ manifesto warned that “people who might benefit from treatment should get the medical help they need so they can return to work. If they refuse a recommended treatment, we will review whether their benefits should be reduced.”…

What’s striking is that the focus of these activities isn’t a job, or specific job-related skills or qualifications. Key outcomes specified in lucrative government contracts to companies providing interventions are “employability” and “job readiness” – achieving a “mindset that will appeal to employers”, as one course puts it.

A narrow set of character traits are touted as essential to getting and keeping a job: confidence, optimism, aspiration, motivation and infinite flexibility. Bogus constructs like “psychological resistance to work” and “cultures of worklessness” are used to legitimise coercive regimes that stigmatise and punish.

The policies that rebrand unemployment as a psychological disorder distract from the insecurity and stark inequality seen in many labour markets. They promote the therapeutic value of work at a time when work is increasingly unable to provide either an income high enough to live on or emotional satisfaction.

Workfare schemes have already created a claimant workforce that lacks the legal rights and protections extended to other workers. Plans to add mandatory psychological treatment is a matter of grave concern.

Lynne Friedli is a freelance researcher with Hubbub, funded by the Wellcome Trust. Robert Stearn is a PhD student at Birkbeck, University of London They are authors of a paper in the journal Medical Humanities on the use of psychological interventions in workfare.

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at Stop labelling unemployment as a psychological disorder – opinion – 07 July 2015 – New Scientist.


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