This is the overwhelmingly dominant paradigm in the discussion of people on benefits, and this group is treated in ways which, were they black or gay, would be simply illegal. It’s illegal to offer a flat for rent with the proviso of ‘No Blacks, no Dogs, No Irish,’ but it’s normal for a landlord to have the proviso ‘No DSS’. It’s absolutely acceptable to discuss people on benefits with as much hatred as you like in the media, in the pub, at dinner parties and in coded terms within education, medicine, social services, at the hairdressers, in a bus queue.It’s acceptable to put a person on benefits under surveillance. Anyone, without the need for proof and anonymously can call the Benefit Fraud Hotline to report a ‘benefit thief.’ (How often is this done spitefully after an argument or relationship breakdown? The DWP keeps no figures on malicious reporting but the internet is full of anecdote.) DWP officers can put a person on benefits under covert surveillance taking long lens photographs of them, their children, their friends and their home life. They’re allowed to gain access to your bank account. Even if there’s no proof of fraud a permanent note will be made on their records. People who have never had anything to do with the legal or judicial system or read a history book reiterate the inane cliché ‘You’ve got nothing to fear if you’ve done nothing wrong,’Imagine other groups under the same conditions: university lecturers bank accounts are accessed. Journalists are put under surveillance. The children of doctors are covertly photographed. The neighbours of Polish people are encouraged, via advertisements on bus stops and on the television, to keep an eye on them. Just in case. It’s unconscionable. But counsellors live and function in a society where we know that people on benefits are treated in this way and it’s not part of our discourse, even though the majority of us will begin our training by practicing on people on benefits.
People who are vulnerable and are very likely to have complex, undiscussed needs.
How does living with the knowledge that you should be ashamed of yourself, that other people detest you simply because of your employment status, and that you are at threat of surveillance if you annoy someone, effect a persons self-concept, their sense of self?
Employment statistics are always contested but there’s no doubt that the numbers of long-term unemployed people are steadily growing. I have enormous sense of weariness when I read almost anything about counselling the long term unemployed, like this
Eurocounsel identified the importance of adult guidance and employment counselling not only as a means to assist the unemployed person to find a route to work and to active citizenship but also as a catalytic tool to prevent unemployment and bring together the resources and actors of local development.
(entirely unreferenced) piece in Therapy Today
‘The prime contractor doesn’t want to pay you to have a nice chat and help the person cope with being unemployed; they want you to increase their employability so they can get work, and help keep them in work.’
The long term unemploed person is barely a citizen, their relationship to the State is purely parasitic, they contribute nothing. They have no agency, they’re free-floating in a meaningless sea of ennui, becoming mentally ill and degenerate. God help their kids, growing up to be mindless, under-achieving, underclass thugs. The role of the counsellor, then, is to make the unemployed person suitable for employment, and bloody keep them at work. Because the ultimate – perhaps the only – value a person has is economic and we will save them, save them from mental illness, from their desperate lives, from themselves.