"There are also increasing stories of suicides committed by people left without any means of income fighting and winning appeals, only to find they are called for WCA reassessments shortly after. As part of the recognition of the increasing trend of those going through assessments to take their own lives Job Centre Plus staff have been issued with guidelines on how to deal with people who they think might be suicidal because of the WCA testing."
Well, Dole Office staff were also issued with guidelines on how to identify and deal with people who might be susceptible to loan sharks. They don't have the time. A majority don't have the inclination. I had an extraordinary, Kafkaesque conversation with a DWP operative last week on behalf of a non-counselling client. After listening to the long list of reasons Why Not, I attempted an empathic response along the lines of, "It sounds as if you might be under a lot of bureaucratic stress." Fully 10 seconds passed in silence. I sit opposite a clock and counted! In your next formal phone call I challenge you to leave a 10 second silence. Her eventual response was this:
"That's nothing to do with me. If she [the client] doesn't turn up I'll stop her benefits."
And then she put the phone down.
It makes me a less than perfect counsellor but I don't care what pressure this person is under. "Just Doing My Job"is also known as the Nuremberg Defense, and like the other very ordinary individuals who did a job to feed their families, even if that job was dropping pellets of Zyklon B into air vents, you cannot process disabled people through demeaning, painful processes and not expect to be involved in abuse. You cannot be involved in a system that for many years has been responsibile for suicides without knowingly being involved in abuse. Then again, I know that a person who works in this kind of system is also being abused. And then some wretched machine part will come out with this kind of statement, which makes me lose all understanding again:
"We are sorry to hear that Mr Deighan has [killed himself]. I understand that you are dealing with his affairs. We have looked again at Mr Deighan's Income Support claim and found that he was paid £160.55 too much Income Support. . . the amount is recoverable from the estate of Mr Deighan."
I have a strange acquaintance with a man who works at my local JobCentrePlus office. It's highly boundaried because he knows I disapprove of his job and because I've told him I would rather someone like him did the job than the callous horror on the end of the 10-second silence. He often seems desperate to talk and knows that this would make his life complicated in all kinds of ways, not least the likely outcome of whistleblowing (I don't know whether to laugh or cry or take up arms over this dripping-with-hypocrisy page.) He's getting visibly older by the day. He always has the option to leave.