Mind Control

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Psychobabble in a Jobcentre near you

On top of punishing claimants with sanctions that leave people destitute, the Government now has plans to use psychological treatments to force people into work.

George Osborne’s budget announced measures to ‘improve employment outcomes’ for people with mental health conditions. These include online cognitive behavioural therapy (change the world by changing how you think) for people on ESA or JSA and putting psychologists in JobCentres.

Unemployment is being redefined as a psychological disorder and the main purpose of psychological therapy will be to force people off benefits.  Or to promote yet another specious reason to cut people off benefits.

Meanwhile, the Tory Manifesto states that claimants who ‘refuse a recommended treatment’ may have their benefits reduced. This is an assault on the human rights of people on benefits and an attempt to co-opt medical professionals as state enforcers.

We’re hearing more and more reports of the misuse of psychology to coerce, bully and punish claimants into ‘getting the right mindset’: “all new starts must attend an initial two week course to develop their confidence”.

Change your attitude

The ‘change your attitude’ message of positive psychology is enforced in mandatory ’employability’ training courses promising to help with ‘self-esteem, self-confidence and motivation’ and in unsolicited ‘positive thinking’ emails.  Making people take part in various pointless and humiliating psycho-group-activities e.g. building paper clip towers to demonstrate team work, or take completely meaningless and unethical psychological tests to determine their ‘strengths’.

The Department for Work and Pensions issues contracts worth hundreds of thousands of pounds (Focus the Mind, Achieve your Potential) designed to ‘address negative perceptions’ and ‘instil a positive attitude to work‘.  A programme for JSA/ESA claimants over 50 aims to persuade people that age discrimination doesn’t exist:

“to challenge perceptions that employers discriminate on the grounds of age”.


These fraudulent programmes don’t result in real paid work you can live on. The companies that run them are making millions out of a big con: that with a total personality makeover, anyone can get a job.  That positive thinking can change the low pay, no pay UK economy.

Psychological resistance to work

In another scheme claimants will have interviews to assess whether we have a ‘psychological resistance’ to work, along with attitude profiling to judge whether we are ‘bewildered, despondent or determined’. If they decide you are ‘less mentally fit’ you’ll be sent on ‘more intensive coaching’, while those who are ‘optimistic’ can be placed on less rigorous regimes. This is how they will decide who is to be punished with ‘extra support’ i.e. forced to spend 35 hours a week at a JobCentre.


The growing use of psychology, with practically every JobCentrePlus manager an expert in the topic, is not helping people with mental health problems whose suffering at the hands of this system has been well documented – with more than 100 people a day with mental health problems losing their benefits through sanctions.

The newly privatised Behavioural Insights Team has trained over 20,000 JobCentre staff in ‘behavioural techniques‘ with DWP managers regularly sending out positive psychology tweets to ‘motivate’ staff to meet targets. Targets that result in escalating sanctions.

Positive psychology

Positive psychology messages are so stupid, they are laughable. But being told day in, day out, that it’s our fault we’re unemployed or in such low paid work that we have to claim benefits  can really get to you. The language of workshy scroungers is a deliberate attempt to put people down and undermine support for hard won welfare rights.  Claimants are expected to show a positive attitude to being exploited or be sent on 6 months Community Work Placement for ‘lack of motivation’ or be referred to a psychologist for questioning your job coach.

BPS inquiry

Before Christmas, the president elect of the British Psychological Society  Jamie Hacker Hughes responded to our concerns by promising to hold an inquiry. That was then. Inspite of repeated reminders, there is nothing on the BPS website about the inquiry. No terms of reference. No information about how people who’ve been through various workfare psycho-interventions can submit their testimonies. All we’ve had from BPS on the issue of psychology, workfare and ethics so far is a press release saying that it’s fine to test claimants for ‘psychological resistance to work‘ as long as the person doing the tests is ‘qualified’.

We’re not holding our breath for the BPS inquiry. In the meantime, we welcome your own testimony on how psychology is used to manipulate, blame, punish and coerce people on benefits.

What you can do

Let the British Psychological Society know we won’t stand for compulsory positive psychology and mandatory psychological treatment. We expect them to speak out. You could also ask them what happened to the inquiry into psychology and workfare promised by their President Professor Jamie Hacker Hughes back in November 2014?


Lobby members of the newly established ‘Mental Health Task Force‘ . This includes Mind, Age UK (well known workfare exploiters) and Rethink

Ask Psychologists against Austerity to keep up the pressure. Tweet them here


Comments (6)

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First the state causes the most basic stress of starvation and homelessness, then are surprised by mental health issues getting worse.

Go on think positively,
but your stomach is positive it's hungry.

Then the state rises the retirement age and ENDS THE STATE PENSION FOR LIFE,
so nil benefit and nil state pension.

See why at end of my petition, in my


I don't expect the Jobcentre will pay for botox treatment so I can get a permanently wired smile to show my positive attitude?

The 2.25 Million Hidden Unemployed People Reveals The Stark Truth: There’s No Fucking Jobs | the void

[…] For more contact details and information about the rise of pseudo-science being used to bully unemployed people visit Boycott Worfare’s website. […]

Melissa Apis

You need to talk to the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. This is where most therapists will be recruited from, not the British Psychological Society.

The BACP as an organisation are a bunch of middle class ladies who like to do good. They backed the Dorries ammendment, too.

They're very unlikely to answer any letters, so also visit them on Twitter.

Esther McVile

This is glorified group therapy - however having seen a vaguely / broadly similar situation years ago , I mentioned this to two senior mental health nurses and they said the point of group therapy is that it is a strictly controlled situation and can be stopped at any time if necessary . They strongly condemned that amateurish , irresponsible situation described .

Secondly the pseudo / quasi psychology unqualified quacks running this are acting well out of their remit , again I mentioned that situation to a Senior NHS Psychologist and she as much as said that , if anyone that acted well beyond their authority would be sacked - and that is if they are lucky ! , could be reported and struck off .

I'd report it to the relevant professional governing authorities as those people In charge would be deemed to be bringing those disciplines into disrepute .

It's a right wing Neo Liberalism thing , there are reasons why there are hierarchies , ranks etc in the NHS , why only suitably qualified staff can do certain things .

Anyone can become a counsellor , look at " Our Graham " on Jeremy Kyle with the most demanding case load in the country . Some of these middle class " do gooder " middle class men & women can do more harm than good . See the bit in the article . .

However during the Thatcher era they decided the market would " provide " and dictate . It's a return to the Victorian era , the whole point of Neo Liberalism , charlatans , snake oil salesmen and quacks - bit like ATOS , Capita & Maximus then !

The ideology that drives it comes from the hard / looney " libertarian " neo con right in the States .

Some of it is the Wisconsin method , basically it's your fault that you are unemployed / poor etc and it's your fault that you are not engaging with Neo Liberalism / the market enough .

That's also fudged / mixed in with the self styled Victorian Vicar Iain Duncan Smith's Centre for Social Justice , glorified poor laws from the early 1800s . Social Darwinism , deserving and undeserving , eugenics , some apparently ! just need geeing up a bit , others are all wrong and need to be corrected apparently ! - everything from these out of touch ideologues in charge seems to be based on various types of bullying .

Also when abrogating state functions to these spivy corporate firms like #A4E without responsibility and accountability is Mussolini style corporatism from the 1930s & 40s

New Labour have dabbled with this too . At least Pauline from Royston Vasey Job Centre got the sack . There was also Hayley Taylor the Fairy Job Mother from A4E - Remember Benefits Busters , someone who'd been on too many NLP courses trying to " treat " a woman with alcoholism , that should have been left to the professionals not rank amateurs like her .


Thanks Melissa. We've sent them a tweet.