Psychocoercion and unemployment: A marriage made in austerity’s hell

By Dr Bruce Scott – Psychologist and Psychoanalyst

16-07-05 Bruce Scott at Psychocoercian demo

I joined comrades from the Mental Wealth Foundation and other organisations on the 5th July to demonstrate outside the Hallam Conference Centre in London, where the New Savoy group and members of the big five psy organisations were meeting. These five organisations were: the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy; the British Psychoanalytic Council, the British Psychological Society and United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy. We called on them to refuse collaboration with the Department of Work and Pensions and the unethical provision of psychological treatments by its members. We called on them to stop the unethical conflation of unemployment with individuals’ ‘psychopathologies’ needing to be ‘cured’ to make them fit work. This detracts from peoples real issues of mental distress, and detracts from the political and economic issues of why people become and are distressed.

I agree that work, the right kind of work, being able to work, rewarding work, and non-alienating work can be a good thing; however, work per se is destructive if it is under conditions of poor pay or zero hours contracts, or in conditions where human flourishing cannot occur. But this is the harsh reality of austerity fueled Tory Britain today; a reality where unemployment is now deemed to be the remit of ‘mental health’ services and psychological treatment. The psychological ‘treatment’ of worklessness is called psychocoercian.

Worryingly the DWP policy of psychoceoercian  appears not to be being criticised by the Scottish government, who dictate that work is a good ‘health outcome’. I wrote to the Scottish Government earlier this year to ask what their position was on the pernicious DWP policy of psychological treatment for being unemployed. Their response was simply:

… the Scottish Government recognises that work is an important part of people’s lives and can help to enhance health, wellbeing and quality of life, and people should have the opportunity of support to return to and remain in work… we aim to provide targeted support to help long-term unemployed people enter sustained employment.’ Quote from letter from Scottish Government to Dr Bruce Scott -30/06/16.

In London on the 5th July 2016 outside the Hallam Conference Centre, in response to psychocoercian, where ‘service users’ and psy professionals are being corralled into the service of neoliberal and austerity politics, comrades collectively cried: NOT IN OUR NAME!

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