Resisting the new normal

mushrooms

I am worried that people are getting so used to be treated like mushrooms that they have forgotten to demand anything else. You know, the kept in the dark and thrown handfuls of shit thing. A lot of people come out of the jobcentre and tell us everything is OK, and then you meet someone who has been struggling through six weeks with no money waiting for his Universal Credit to come through because no-one told him he could get an advance and get help from the Scottish Welfare Fund, and you wonder how many more people are in the same situation but have just accepted it as the new normal. Or you meet people wasting hours and days on the DWP’s next-to-useless Universal Jobmatch, because they hadn’t known that it was not compulsory to agree to this unless specifically directed. Or you meet someone who wants to confirm that the unpaid ‘work experience’ that they have been offered is not actually compulsory, and you realise that many people don’t dare ask questions. but just do what they are told and go where they are sent. Or you talk to someone who is concerned about what they are being made to sign as a Claimant Commitment, and think how many people just sign what they are given without comment. As we have observed before, although sanctions are – thankfully – much less common than they were, the fear of sanctions is as potent as ever, so they are still performing their disciplinary role. Newspapers highlight the worst cases of DWP abuse, but this constant erasure of expectation and hope can slip under the radar. We can’t let that happen.

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