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New Regime

Every day it seems Wonderland gets a little more mad hatter. I’m not sure how we’re meant to keep up with this decline into madness and bitterness but I find myself increasingly outside of myself which, given I have to appeal to ATOS for help on Tuesday, may well be a good thing. But in terms of being a functioning human being: not so much. I guess I should take comfort that my situation isn’t as dire as poor LindaWooten who, despite the fact she lay dying in hospital (if that’s not going to appeal to prospective employers I don’t know what will), was still found fit for work.

But that’s exactly what they want isn’t it. I sometimes think decisions such as that are deliberate. If the government can ‘demonstrate’ (spelt: demonise) the sickest and most dire of cases are fit enough then what hope for the rest of us. Worse: the rest of us will increasingly be seen as malingerers. That’s the purpose of DWP videos such as those discussed here; a Hit Parade of disabled people spouting clichés to inspire us to stop feeling sorry for ourselves and find the work that’s just waiting to be found.

Never mind of course having to compete with people that don’t have a history of sickness/conditionality. Read: no chance.

And so it came to pass that the DWP saw fit to release their plans for dealing with those that fail the WorkProgramme. Note the language: it won’t be the providers that are at fault. They won’t have failed the claimants. The system won’t have let us down. No, whatever the circumstances or outcome, if you don’t find work by the time your sentence ends, YOU will be to blame.

So after you are discharged from the ideological gulag the free market sent you to, you will receive an ‘end of term’ report. Quite what this is meant to be I don’t know, but I’m willing to bet, like a Barnum Statement, it will be equivocal nudge unit inspired ‘not trying hard enough to meet his potential’ nonsense. This will give the targeted advisors you will now be subject to enough rope to hang you with. It is then possible these ‘specialist’ advisers at the Jobcentre will be able to call you in daily. Quite apart from how people are to afford daily travel (and more, such as childcare) costs is not explained, how does attending every day change anything? If it didn’t work under the Work Programme, how will it work at the Jobcentre? What do they have that the WP doesn’t and why bother with the WP in the first place then?

The government, under the auspice of Unemployment Minister, Mark Hoban (who recently pocketed 144 grand from the saleof his state funded second home, furnished again by us), continues to believe in the greatness of the WP. Consequently it cannot and seemingly will not countenance that they and it has failed. Instead we have failed it – if we’d only try harder, malingering less, and stop being lazy…

The statement uses adversarial language: it talks of ‘stepping up the pressure’ and refers to this next step as a ‘tough and uncompromising regime’ (as opposed to the WP of course). To the ruling elite the unemployed really are a more boisterous incarnation of the itinerant school truant. This is dangerously facile and utterly self defeating. Why are we not adopting a more compassionate approach? Why not actually support and help people? Why not find the means – you’ve wasted almost 10 billion on the Work Programme for what? – to address the issues that people have with proper professional assistance.

Instead I have to persuade ATOS and subsequently a DWP Decision Maker sitting behind the scene out of sight and deliberately incommunicado that, without ESA, the Work Programme cannot help me – as if it ever could. It can’t, and hasn’t so far, but at least I’m not currently being bullied by advisors so professional they ignore everything they have been told.

No, instead claimants are placed in a situation most jobcentres will find unsustainable and placed even closer to the precarious cliff edge of sanctions. They will be monitored (more) rigorously, no doubt through the wonky and insecure machinations of Universal Jobmatch. That site remains utterly hopeless and totally untrustworthy, but again its problems will be ignored and the claimant given the blame.

Within days of finishing the Work Programme people will be expected to be either in training (provided by whom? If the WP can’t manage it then how will this materialise?) or on Mandatory Work Activity. In other words, this is the Community Action Programme by another name. No doubt they’ve subtly changed things hoping to avoid the anti-workfare backlash. Good luck!

This period lasts for 6 months and carries with it a minimum sanction time of 4 weeks – though how people are meant to live without food for a month (during which they will still be expected to sign somehow) I do not know. But it is the attitude that is, yet again, all wrong. If they think this will lead to anything other than more confrontation anger and grief, they are wrong. Still, a hundred and forty four thousand quid buys a lot of things to take your mind off of the guilt.


  1. I am f*cking outraged at this.

    When are the scumbags in government going to wake up and realise there are not enough jobs for everyone?

    I first read about this on Johnny Void's blog, and the headline gave me a brief bit of hope that the government was going to give up on bullying and harassing people. Fat chance; the more I read the more I saw it would be the same old sh*t, with the same old hostile, bullying language being used (although I realise the tone being used is for the benefit of the media, to help convince them they are clamping down on "scroungers").

    Why are the DWP allowed to treat people like this? Why is a department of the British Government using such deliberately hostile and unhelpful language against its own citizens? Why are people at large willing to sit and watch their fellow citizens being attacked like this?

    1. It's possible that jobcentres will not be able to provide the 'intense' experience the tories fantasise about. That has always been the case. But I recall a few years ago being told they no longer refund people for travelling to appointments not of their signing day. Then again i've been told a lot of things that aren't true by these people. I was meant to get my bus fare refunded when i had my first appointment with the DWP Work Psychologist - I say 'meant to' because it took them a week to actually get someone to open the petty cash tin.

      Unfortunately the PCS seems to have abandoned all pretence of caring about people despite wanting solidarity when its members go on strike. The peopel that enact and refer claimants for sanctions are often those that do so quite happily. If they are PCS members then it's really down to us at grassroots level to take action.

  2. Good luck on Tuesday. I'm sure you've researched it in advance, but over at the G a fellow posted a list of queation ATOS asked at his assessment:

    1.Can you carry out tasks like getting up and getting washed?
    2.Can you cope with small changes to your routine if you know about them in advance?
    3.Can you cope with small changes to your routine if you dont know about them in advance?
    3.Can you go to places you don't know if someone goes with you?
    4.Can you go to places you do know on your own?
    5.Can you meet with people you know without feeling anxious or scared.
    6.Can you meet with people you dont know without feeling anxious or scared.
    7.Can you learn how to do simple tasks, such as setting an alarm clock.
    8..Can you learn how to do more difficult tasks, such as using a washing machine.

    1. Thanks.

      I can do most of those things, but then these questions are always ridiculous. They do not address the ephemeral nature of mental health and are too broad to mean anything. Can I go to places? Depends where and what and how I feel? None of this represents the reality of working environments people within and the responsibilities you have to undertake and for how long. All of which are as different as chalk and cheese. I have no illusions that i will score zero points: if Linda Wooten score no more than what chance do I have?

      The worst part (other than sitting in a waiting room full of strangers which i will have to do and thus provide evidence that i'm fit and well - can't win!) is there is no negotiation with these people. This government's healthcare 'reforms' were sold on the notion that it was about greater choice for the patient. What about greater choice for the claimant? Why can't I and my doctor/specialists (ie the NHS) negotiate which pathway is better for me than a silly tickbox test that has nothing to do with reality and is decided by a person i will never meet or speak to.

  3. Well, they're all trick questions, as the very fact you've attended the interview is supposed to demonstrate that you can do all of those things. They're not interested in how much it has cost you in terms of physical and/or mental pain to attend, simply that you found the resources to do - and the fact that you found the resources means that you're fit for work in their eyes. If you cooperate you're sunk, and if you don't cooperate you're equally sunk. But it's worth attending so you can move onto the appeals process, where at least you have a chance.

    "Choice" is one of those neo-liberal buzzwords, isn't it? - it doesn't really mean anything unless you have the money to choose. And if you had the money you probably wouldn't need to choose in the first place because you'd be able to cut through the crap to the chase.

    1. Couldn't have put it better myself: you're damned if you do and damned if you don't.

      Sometimes choice might be nice: shall i have rice or a baked potato with my dinner.

      Other times it's a myth: do we want our health taken care of by provider A or provider B? No we want the best medicine and care that exists. Lansley tried to sell the reforms as bringing choice. What we want is a healthcare service unfettered by profit.

      Same with the energy sector: we don't want to choose from what ends up as a cartel with the same interests fixing prices. We just want heat and power.

    2. "..the ideological gulag the free market sent you to"
      - Fantastic turn of phrase! Totally agree.

      I've been reading your blog for months now, and I must say it's one of the finest I've seen on the net documenting the plight of those who are subject to the punitive neoliberal welfare regime.

      The language used in that government article is positively frightening! This aggressive drive to make the unemployed internalise the fiction that they're personally responsible for the crisis of capitalism is downright evil.

      On another note, I don't know if you use the site already but please join us on:

      Keep up the good work, comrade!


    3. Thanks very much.

      I did join that site a while back, but it's difficulty keeping up with all the different places to comment. That's one of the reasons I started doing this myself. One the many woes that i have is i get very overwhelmed processing lots of different stuff, even keeping on top of various sites and comment points.

      That article is clearly aggressive intentionally to shift any attention away from the massive failings of the Work Programme. Again we must get tough on people that have failed it (as opposed to the reverse which is the reality) because they are in some way 'not playing by the rules'.

      They are pushing people too far.


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