“How’s it going?”
I have a doctor’s appointment on Monday. As someone with (as yet undiagnosed) learning disabilities (the surgery’s words, not mine) I am called to have a ‘review’ with my GP. I imagine this will be the first thing he will ask, I have no idea what it is meant to mean. What is ‘it’?
I have no idea how to answer? Is it the same as people who greet each other by saying ‘alright’; they don’t really expect an answer. No one wants to hear your life story; it’s not meant as a question. Will he mean “got a job yet?” that sounds more likely?
It’s the assumption that I am playing the game: doing the right thing, without ever having had that explained to me, nor giving me a choice of what game I might like to play. What efforts will I have made, that will satisfy the curiosity of my GP, to improve my lot? What efforts can I make? I don’t live where there is a robust mental health support network, certainly not one without a proper diagnosis. I may never get that either, but I hope that, if I do, it might open more doors. Then again, it might not. It won’t matter; it will always be down to me. One has to pull up one’s own socks these days. If you can’t, well you’re a scrounger.
No one offers any help; no one seems to even want an alternative to the existing system that, in being so narrow, is inherently self defeating. There was a panorama documentary two days ago about the effect of the welfare cap on families in Brent. I didn’t watch all of it (I didn’t even know it was on), but what I did see was depressing. It was clear that this cap was being used as a cudgel, with errant accuracy, to push people toward work: one woman, a single mother of five, was compelled to apply to Avon, selling slap. How on earth is that going to achieve anything? But if these people found work, they wouldn’t be forced out of their homes. Another woman, a mother of three, was turfed out into a hostel and left to rot. How can any of this make sense?
An Ethiopian mother, who’d been resistant for twelve years, was exiled to Luton. Her 16 year old daughter refused to follow and the family is split; she stays with extended family back in London while the mother makes the best of it in the birthplace of the EDL. How is such short sightedness going to help heal the sort of division those slugs feed on, when they see perceived ‘foreigners’ turn up on their doorstep? Will they understand that she had no choice in the matter? Will they care?
One family was sent to High Wycombe which ended up costing the father £400 (according to him) to get back into London to work, as well as ferrying his kids to school. He went back to the council to complain about the state of the house which seemed to have an insect problem. The DWP officers didn’t really seem to me to be terribly bothered: deal with it, was the message, or find a better place off your own back. How can he when rents are going through the roof, which is what, gave rise, inexpertly, to this mad policy?
The message that came through was that government policy cannot override community. No amount of economic engineering – rearranging people, carving up families and turfing out children – will ever be compatible with human relationships. The end result is a lot of damage: confusion, heartache and resentment. This was plainly evident as the credits rolled to the sound of the Deputy PM (interesting choice of scapegoat) rationalising this as part of one of his many and forgettable speeches.
He claims welfare is about forcing people into work.
I do not agree. Those are separate issues. Welfare, properly social security, should only ever concern itself with taking care of people. It should not be used or manipulated, certainly not by the rich corporate class, to compel behaviour. You cannot make people work anymore than you can happily rearrange their lives through a welfare cap. Cutting her benefits won’t guarantee her a job with Avon, even if such a job (no doubt a self employed zero hours trap) were suitable.
Now you might want people to work; we might want community members to work together to do things that are necessary (selling cosmetics in an industry that plays on female insecurities, programmed over generations?). That is a separate discussion that can only be had when people’s needs are taken care of without judgement or guilt. If those needs are not met they will only ever exist in survival mode: concerned, quite rightly, with foraging and shelter, fight or flight.
Social security is the correct name because taking care of the needs of society’s members is paramount to a healthy society. It benefits everyone, not just those that directly receive it, but we have lost sight of this and have allowed people like Nick Clegg to follow a particular line and pursue rearranging social security to a nasty agenda (largely American in nature). This will only ever lead to more division and a further need for social security. It will not foster a greater understanding of the issues faced by people with neuro diverse conditions, aspergers, autism spectrum conditions, or learning disabilities/difficulties. “How’s it going?” I don’t know, I can’t make head nor tail of this society. The people in charge have broken it.