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How Will Support Be Next Year/2018?

As this year ends and the consumerist oblivion that is Christmas is a memory ago I have to ask this question moving forward. This is likely to be my last blog post for the year (a statement as melodramatic as it is vacuous).

Right now I'm waiting for my third attempt at the spectacular shit show that is the Work Capability Assessment. They have had two chances to do their job and failed each time. While the stone-faced receptionist was on the phone the HQ to find out why my second appointment had been cancelled, it didn't cross her mind to perhaps arrange someone there and then to see me. Whatever; they didn't. So now it's back to sitting by the door looking at the letterbox as if Jack Nicholson was about to smash his way through it and stab me to death. It doesn't feel much better.

In the midst of all this, where is my support? I work with (as a client, or 'customer', or whatever the correct term de jure is) a group who seem increasingly to fade into the background noise, like all the rest. The saddest part of all isn't the dismal predictability they might be just as useless as every other funded group, but that, despite offering increasingly less, they are still better than nothing.

To be fair, I don't think they are as bad as some groups (Working Links for instance). They haven't been hostile, though that could easily happen as so many of these groups are incredibly thin skinned and brook absolutely no criticism. I don't dislike my advisor, I think she means well - now that really is the saddest part of all. Good intentions don't mean shit in this society.

This is by far the biggest problem: they have such a limited array of support that the only thing it can produce is a victim blaming narrative. For example I suspect I will be 'encouraged', following my meeting with the not-a-colour colour therapist, to join in their wellbeing programme (which was meant to happen a few months ago, only they forgot to tell me it had actually started running, despite my asking). As it turns out this programme is very basic which means it will of course ignore the wider context people like me (and indeed everyone without a stable income to cushion the fall) find ourselves in. That context is the structure of a capitalist society run by an elite.

Absent of an understanding of that - class consciousness in other words - how can any attempt to provide 'wellbeing support' ever hope to do anything successful? Sure there is a time and a place for 'goal setting' (the same lexicon used by the Salvation Army, way back in the day when I saw them) or 'motivation', or, as one part of this curriculum asks, 'what makes you happy'?

The focus is on the individual. That's fine, but when it ignores the wider context how can it possibly do anything other than create a violent disconnect? People can set all the goals they like, but how will they feel about themselves when they can't accomplish them because the DWP has taken away their income or left them for months struggling with no Universal Credit? How are you supposed to motivate yourself then? How will positive thinking break through the very real wall of crushed opportunity and empty stomachs? I guess all those homeless people that I now see on the streets, where town centres are now campsites for the increasingly marginalised and dispossessed, are just lost in their own 'negative thinking'. Come on!

As for what makes me (or you) happy? It is entirely contextual. One day I might enjoy a piece of music, the next I might be in no mood for it at all. One day I might receive a letter telling me I have passed my WCA, the next I might be called in for another. This is such a trite question as to betray the utter uselessness of such services.

Now I'm not saying those that provide them don't mean well, or that they aren't nice people. This is another pernicious element of the system. It creates this assumption that criticism of the service, of the lack of understanding of the broader reality (the context I've been referring to), means that I think ill of those providing that service. This is something I find desperately tedious as I cannot bear having to constantly make this point. It's like being interrupted all the time - and it is used to control the conversation, to keep critics off point and unable to make their criticisms.

And now I have forgotten what I need to say next - which is the point.

It would be naive to assume these organisations are suddenly going to turn into revolutionary cells, but if they don't or can't accept the level of awareness that is required to really make positive change (and where we go with that is another struggle entirely) then how can they ever expect to help? When they are unwilling to refund my bus fare to the WCA, an demonstrate a fundamental lack of awarness of the nature of these tests, what can they possibly achieve? My advisor agrees that I'm not fit for work, she even offered to write a letter to that effect. Unfortunately that letter said "...needs to be challenged", in reference to helping me move forward. What she fails to understand is that saying anything like that will be taken as testimony that I can work - that work will heal me, the pernicious arbeit macht frei paradigm at the heart of this system.

The doublethink involved in what she has done is, with the greatest of respect, completely beyond her, just as is the notion that if I ask the WCA people to refund my bus far, it will confirm to them I am capable of work. We all know that is part of the test, they ask it to everyone who attends ("how did you get here today?" - it's not an innocent quiestion, Leon). How can people so ignorant of this reality ever expect to be helpful?

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