The Invisible Prison – Panopticon Of The DWP

Invisible prison 1 art

One of the things I’m feeling a lot at the moment is the massive divide being successfully constructed between:

1. Those of us who are long-term dependent on state disability benefits to live.

2. The rest of society.

This is absolutely deliberate.

People who aren’t dealing with the DWP for disability benefits have no idea how traumatic and violent and all-encompassing it is. It is an ongoing trauma for a lot of us.

Pretty much everyone I know who, like me, relies on disability benefits for rent/food/bills/life money, has had multiple traumatic experiences. And that’s on top of the GIGANTIC amount of work that the assessment process involves: do to it successfully requires a lot of specialist knowledge, writing skills, capacity for loads of admin, having to contact people, arrange medical appoints which are a total waste of patient and NHS resources, attend horrific ‘assessments’ , try to find advocacy etc

And being forced to do this all to the tightest timescale possible.

We deal with a level of surveillance and arbitrary punishment that, rightly,
has been judged by multiple independent analyses to be a state driven deliberate breach of the human rights of disabled people who have the fucking gall to be poor and/or unable to work.

Loads of the techniques of psychological pressure were developed first in one of the home office/ foreign office/ DWP, and then exported to the others. Nice, huh?

If you’ve a strong stomach and/or are not directly affected, more on that here.

Nudging conformity and benefit sanctions: a state experiment in behaviour modification

Basically the gist of this is, in which we discover until recently there really was a controversial government department which researched and tested “behaviour modification techniques” for implementation in aggressive state policy:

“Conservative anti-welfare discourse excludes the structural context of unemployment and poverty from public conversation by transforming these social problems into individual pathologies of “welfare dependency” and “worklessness.”

The consequence is an escalating illogic of authoritarian policy measures which have at their core the intensification of punitive conditionality. These state interventions are justified by the construction and mediation of stigma, which is directed at already marginalised social groups that the policies target. The groups, which include sick and disabled people, people who are unemployed, are painted with a Malthusian brush, as a “burden on the state” and a drain on what are politically portrayed and publicly seen as scarce resources in an era of austerity.”

Political processes of scapegoating, stigmatisation and outgrouping have been amplified by a largely complicit UK corporate media. Examples of its work are all over the DWP. PREVENT. The whole Hostile Environment project. There’s plenty more, I’m sure.

Which is why I’m not exaggerating when I name this as state terrorism.

A bunch of disability and civil liberties activists/campaigners/lawyers discovered  the existence of the ‘nudge unit’.  So they made Freedom f Information requests to try and find out what the hell government money is being spent on.

Government solution? To privatise the department and turn it into an ‘institute’ to avoid scrutiny. And to drain more state cash into private pockets.

Anyway, back to us, trying to survive in an increasingly violent and reactionary society with the vast machinery of the  right wing state bearing down on us.

This shit and much more stuff like it = many of us are scared to leave the house, post any pictures of us looking happy on social media, be photographed at events/protests.

We’re cut off from participating in civil society.

Police force admits agreement to share information about protesters with DWP

It’s absolutely deliberate: the more surveillance, the more the DWP poke their nose and disclosure agreements into every area of our lives, the scarier it is to be out in the world even when we aren’t disabled by society.

And – for many of us – there are multiple other oppressions we’re dealing with too. Disability is inextricably entwined with race, class, gender, gender id, immigration status, sexuality and poverty.

Our lives are FUCKING HARD.

The surveillance/sanctions regime is a deliberate tactic to put extra pressure on already vulnerable people. It’s punishment for being vulnerable and in need. It’s also eugenics: it’s about disabled people being regarded as disposable/barely/not human. It’s an idea with deep roots in British society.

And they’re only just getting started. Looking at Bloody Boris’ fucking cabinet terrifies me, eg right now the DWP is trying to get its hooks into NHS files. The proposal is dressed up in fake nicey language but basically it would mean that if you claim disability benefits, you have no privacy or confidentiality during medical appointments. It would be horrific. I know that there’s a lot of pushback against this from loads of NHS groups, thank fuck.

I don’t have much hope, and I feel a lot of the time the clock is ticking on how long I can survive before they break me, or make me homeless again or otherwise fatally fuck me up. That worry never leaves me. Which is another reason for stopping dealing with them for now.

Because I realise now: I’ve become institutionalised. I live inside an invisible cage built by the DWP (and social Scare, of course. Let’s not forget them. Bastards)

By institutionalised, I mean, for eg – I anticipate and strategise against DWP sanctions automatically whenever I think, open my mouth, and especially if I leave the house. Any time I think about doing anything out of the house that might improve my life, (eg an art class, or an event that a photographer is at) I freak out over whether it will trigger sanctions.

Because although it’s not likely, it does happen.

It’s a perfect panopticon. They fuck over just enough people to make all of us realistically terrified about it.

And it’s a deliberately and increasingly asymetric system.

Ie: getting the benefits takes huge amounts of work, and can take years. But the state can take them away in an instant.

There’s also the alienation: I deal with this monster that infests every area of my life. People who don’t deal with it mostly have absolutely no idea how hard our lives are. How we don’t go a week on social media without hearing about yet another death caused by the system we’re reliant on.

A system that is our right.

And it should be the right of anyone living here, btw. And isn’t anymore – that’s a whole other pile of DWP fuckery that’s been happening over the past decade or so.

Fuck borders and fuck nativist politics always.

But my one hope is that I see so many grassroots people/groups/organisations/communities doing mutual aid, advocacy, support, skill sharing etc. A lot of it is very informal and grassroots and it’s amazing. So you get people on random fb forums putting hours into helpful /detailed/informed responses to questions. You get people sharing often traumatic details of the assessment process because they care about someone else going through the same thing. It’s fucking amazing. But we shouldn’t fucking be going through this shit in the first place.

More specific stuff re the ”invisible cage’/panopticon:

CW: moar DWP ranting. Also, tho, theory.
Which isn’t actually fucking theory for me. It’s my daily life.

The DWP is absolutely a panopticon. I’m living in a fucking panopticon. Except it’s invisible. And specifically designed to marginalise already vulnerable people.

So most people don’t even know it exists. And often don’t believe you when you tell them. And it fucks you up so sometimes* you forget that you’re living in a panopticon and just blame/hate yourself.

I’m living in a panopticon in twenty fucking nineteen in a rich White Western country that likes to think of itself as:

1. Liberal (it isn’t. There are important  traditions of liberalism in this country. Traditions f radical internationalist anti colonial/anti racist socialism, communism, anarchism. Powerful histories of working class people of all races doing practical radical political work. And loads more. Britain’s dominant character as a ‘nation’ in general, in practice ends up  defaulting to English norms’ . Which prize conformism, hierarchy, subtle powerful coded signals.
Its all about us ‘knowing our place’.

Riz MC nails it in ‘Englistan’:
“God save the queen
Nah she ain’t mates with me
But she keeps my paper green
Plus we are neighbours see
On this little island
Where we’re all surviving
Politeness mixed with violence
This is England”

Track: Riz MC Englistan on Bandcamp
Lyrics: https://genius.com/Riz-mc-englistan-lyrics

2. Modern. Modernity isn’t inherently good – in English, it’s a category inseparable from white supremacy and capitalism and patriarchy and and and.

But my main issue is that the idea that the UK is modern is fucking laughable. UK = basically feudal neoliberal empire-hangover capitalism. Doesn’t that sound just GREAT?

If you think I’m exaggerating – bear in mind that our new Prime Minister is related to the royal family. in twenty fucking nineteen.

Thinking about the DWP as a panopticon also usefully reminds me that there’s a reason that a fucking White English public school-and-oxbridge man came up with with the panopticon. These same people still largely run the country OVER TWO HUNDRED YEARS LATER.

“Jeremy Bentham, an English philosopher and social theorist in the mid-1700s, invented a social control mechanism that would become a comprehensive symbol for modern authority and discipline in the western world: a prison system called the Panopticon.

The basic principle for the design, which Bentham first completed in 1785, was to monitor the maximum number of prisoners with the fewest possible guards and other security costs. The layout (which is depicted below) consists of a central tower for the guards, surrounded by a ring-shaped building of prison cells.

The building with the prisoners is only one cell thick, and every cell has one open side facing the central tower. This open side has bars over it, but is otherwise entirely exposed to the tower. The guards can thus see the entirety of any cell at any time, and the prisoners are always vulnerable and visible. Conversely, the tower is far enough from the cells and has sufficiently small windows that the prisoners cannot see the guards inside of it.

The sociological effect is that the prisoners are aware of the presence of authority at all times, even though they never know exactly when they are being observed. The authority changes from being a limited physical entity to being an internalized omniscience- the prisoners discipline themselves simply because someone might be watching, eliminating the need for more physical power to accomplish the same task. Just a few guards are able to maintain a very large number of prisoners this way. Arguably, there wouldn’t even need to be any guards in the tower at all.”

“Michel Foucault, a French intellectual and critic, expanded the idea of the panopticon into a symbol of social control that extends into everyday life for all citizens, not just those in the prison system (Foucault 1970). He argues that social citizens always internalize authority, which is one source of power for prevailing norms and institutions. A driver, for example, might stop at a red light even when there are no other cars or police present. Even though there are not necessarily any repercussions, the police are an internalized authority- people tend to obey laws because those rules become self-imposed.”

* ie almost all the time.

A final thought:

The tories are trying to kill me.
And a LOT of other people.
And they’ve already killed so many.

Black people. Muslims. People of Colour.
Migrants, particularly guess what, black people, muslims, people of colour.
Disabled People. Mad people.
Trans* people
Queers
The ‘wrong kind’ of women.
Working class people

*

Think about what it’s like for those of us who tick most or all of these boxes.

Try to conceive of the firestorm that we’re living in.

quotes are from here Internalized Authority and the Prison of the Mind: Bentham and Foucault’s Panopticon

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Neopaternalism – New Wave Paternalism In UK Mental Health Services

neopaternalism

Artwork by: @JADEELIZB

Neopaternalism refers to the practice, often seen in MH services, of professionals imposing their versions of ’empowerment’ and ‘independence’ etc. on individuals in their care regardless of the individuals own views. Typically, ‘independence’ in this context is near synonymous with discharge or cuts to care provision.

Neopaternalism prioritises the professional’s worldview, agenda, values and goals. As such, it mirrors traditional paternalism, but the content and language used is different. Emphasis on independence in neopaternalism is often framed as contrasting to traditional paternalism in which providing care is perceived as restricting a person’s liberty and autonomy. However, this obscures the fundamental similarity in which both approaches impose the powerful’s agenda on the less powerful.

Neopaternalism is in some ways worse than traditional paternalism, which at least resulted in some care. Traditional paternalism involved helping by ‘doing to’ an individual in their perceived best interests, whether or not the individual found it helpful. Neopaternalism involves ‘helping’ by not doing anything (supposedly ‘empowering’), whether or not the individual finds that helpful. Neopaternalism is oppression skulking behind an empowerment façade.

Neopaternalism pervades the co-opted neoliberal recovery approach which is every bit as coercive as other models: there is an obligation to recover, find certain things helpful & failure to do so is pathologised by both services (PD) & alternative models (sick role). Underlying neopaternalism is pressure on individuals to fulfil neoliberal policy outcomes, conflating individual/citizen needs with government agendas.

 Example:

“We’ve decided for you that you must not be dependent on us. Your opinion doesn’t matter because we are doing this for you, in your best interests. We are empowering you by discharging you to promote your independence. You must take responsibility. Nb We will not admit it has anything to do with neoliberal ideology or cuts”

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What is Recovery? Who defines it? Why am I unrecovered?

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What does recovery mean to me? Well, after thinking about this for many days, the simple answer is that I have no idea. I don’t know what it might be like or feel like. What am I supposed to be recovering from? How do I recover? I’m not sure I can recover from some of the things that have happened and are happening to me. Neither am I sure I actually want to. I realise that the reason it’s hard for me to define recovery in my own terms is because the word has been so trampled over. Recovery has been sold to me by the MH system and other organisations. I’m bombarded with positive affirmations and stories from those who have recovered. I’m regularly told that I can recover but not how this is actually possible. Care Plans are now called Recovery Plans, Peer Support Workers are called Recovery Workers. I’m expected to fill in a Recovery Star before and after a MH crisis. I’m told I should go to the Recovery College. I see that being employed is linked with recovery.

I feel sick! I feel that I haven’t tried hard enough and that I am to blame. The oh so familiar feelings that I can’t label and that I have had since I was a kid return. Uuuurgh. I don’t choose to be unrecovered. Yet, I long for this thing they call recovery and am pleased for those that have recovered. It’s complicated and confusing. I think it has something to do with power, privilege and opportunities. I wonder whether to delete this sentence as I don’t want to offend anyone. I decide to leave it in for now.

I decide to look for a definition of recovery online. I look at a Trust Recovery Strategy:

“Our purpose is to create a culture and context in which people can recover: to provide interventions that enable people to take back control of their lives, to believe in the potential of everyone we work with so that they too can feel hopeful about their futures. We give access to opportunities so that people really can live the lives they want to lead.”

“Recovery can be seen as a process and can be most helpfully defined by three core concepts: hope, control and opportunity.”

I start laughing out loud to myself. I have none of these three things. One of the reasons that I’m unrecovered is because of the mental health system itself. This hostile environment is not a culture conducive to recovery. In my experience it has actually got worse and I don’t see it improving any time soon. How can I recover from having the shit and sticky label of ‘Bullshit Psychiatric Disorder’ slapped on to me two and a half decades ago. A label that is tantamount to saying that my difficulties come from within myself? I can’t get it changed or updated to CPTSD. I’ve tried. I’m told I’m lacking insight and that I’m failing to accept my diagnosis. My anger and complaints are pathologised as so called traits of a disordered personality. The label and all that comes with it is are the complete opposite of helpful and has led to neglect, abuse, and cruelty. I need a diagnosis to enable me to get support for my difficulties and for the best chance of getting welfare benefits. It’s MH services themselves who decide when to discharge me and this could happen at any time for failing to engage or for not recovering.

The childhood trauma I suffered has been ignored and in many ways I’m seen as a walking diagnosis and a set of symptoms which limits the choices of therapy I can access and how I am perceived as a human being. The group therapy I have had so far (DBT and Therapeutic Community) did not help. It made me feel worse. The few professionals that do understand say they are as frustrated as me about the MH system. How could they be? How do I recover from an illness I never had? How do I recover from childhood trauma when I have had no specific meaningful help to do this, and still feel like a victim and not a survivor? There is no specific trauma therapy as standard in the Trust and I have been turned down for funding by the CCG because of my ‘BPD’ label. I think about what recovering from incest would feel like. I don’t know. I wonder whether if I did recover, would this mean that I had forgiven my abuser? I don’t want to. I wonder how I can recover from the suicide of my little bro. Does anyone recover from something like this? If I did recover would that mean that I never think of him?

How do I recover from ongoing iatrogenic harm? The powerful, coercive, and controlling nature of the mental health system has caused me to be locked up many times against my will, sometimes I now realise illegally. I’ve been on a cocktail of drugs with no informed consent for decades that are contrary to NICE guidelines. I have had no support to taper and stop these drugs from services despite asking for many years. I’ve been restrained several times. Threats of MHA assessments, threats that if I don’t turn up for appointments that the police will come looking for me. My daughters have been contacted on several occasions and told to look after me 24/7 until a bed can be found and to call the police if needed. Our relationship has been ruined. I can’t recover from the continued loss of my human rights. How do I start to be kind to myself when the people who were and are supposed to care for me have and still do hurt me so badly?

How do I recover from transphobia? I’ve been told by professionals that I have ‘BPD’ because I am transgender or that I am transgender because I have ‘BPD’. The Trust do not follow their policy for Transgender Patients and I am doing my best to inform the professionals I see about transgender issues as I have not met any who understand. They need more training especially surrounding the way gender dysphoria and transphobia can affect my mental distress. I was outed as being transgender to my family by a MH professional who thought it a good idea to change my name on the system without thinking to ask my permission. My daughter was contacted as my nearest relative when I went AWOL from a locked up place. My family knew that I was transgender I’m sure, but I was gently and sensitively leading up to telling them in my own way and in my own time. They now equate a mental illness and a time they thought of me as completely crazy to my being a trans guy. They do not accept that this is who I am and always have been. Our relationship has been further ruined.

How do I recover from the coercive welfare benefits system and the doom filled feelings that come with this? DWP assessment processes, the fear of the brown envelope through the letter box, the sanctions, being investigated for fraud. Trying to prove to them that I am not able to work and that my difficulties are severe enough to get enough social security to survive on. The push I see from the Government to get everyone back into employment whatever the cost and that apparently work is good for my mental health and aids this thing called recovery. The fear that I may lose some of my disability benefits at any time which may force me into work when I simply am not able. This would lead to sanctions and debt and possible homelessness. How do I recover from the fact that I can’t afford to pay for therapy that may well help me? How do I recover from the fact that the Personal Budget I receive to employ a Personal Assistant to support me has decreased to almost nothing? The one thing that has helped me to be in control of having some sort of quality of life and social inclusion?

I still have no idea what recovery means to me or what it might be like or feel like. This I realise is because I am unrecovered. I can’t see that changing anytime soon. I do know that I have given up on the idea that I should live up to the definitions of recovery from others and the false ideals of what people think I should be and should do. I’m sometimes asked by professionals “what do you think would help you?” My answer remains the same as it always has been “To be dead”. But I’m not dead and I’m here aged 58 writing this blog. It’s painful this thing called ‘life’. I realise that I am privileged because I can and want to write down my own story of unrecovery and I think of the many that don’t want to or can’t. I think of how other people’s stories will be different to mine. I think of those who are not alive to tell their stories, some whose blogs I have read and some who didn’t get to write down their words.

I think it’s important that the stories of those that are unrecovered are heard. People like me are not invited to do keynote speeches at conferences or events and to be honest I feel too unrecovered to do so if asked. I can’t attend events to get my unrecovered voice heard unless they are free and travel expenses are covered in advance. I’m not the kind of service user who is included in co-production. Does anyone actually want to hear from the unrecovered? Could they learn anything from us? The drive towards this thing called recovery by the many powerful ones that don’t help me to recover is catch 22. I’m fighting to take back some power hope, and control but it isn’t working and this leaves me feeling suicidal. I wonder whether the words I have written will make sense to any of you reading them? I wonder whether people will comment to say how I should define recovery and how to work towards it? I don’t want my story misrepresented or twisted to fit into someone else’s narrative. It’s my story not yours.

By G

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RITB Position Statement On Borderline Personality Disorder

HysteriaBPD

RITB are neutral on diagnosis – we support people to self define in the way they choose that best enables them to live. However we consider Borderline Personality Disorder a special case and object to anyone’s personality being diagnosed as disordered.

We respect that some people find the diagnosis useful and would not want to see people not getting good support, but our position is that we do oppose BPD diagnosis.

We view the BPD diagnosis as a special case because of its specific and politicised use as;
•a diagnosis of reprisal in response to a complaint or a failure to ‘recover’ or to respond to medication,
•a misogynistic diagnosis given to women, transgender and non binary people mostly due to its links with childhood trauma, childhood sexual abuse or to the sole action of self-harm.
•a diagnostic reclassification to expedite discharge for financial and ideological reasons.

We view it as the worst diagnosis in terms of professional stigma and hateful attitudes and believe it is different to all other diagnoses in its utility so we prefer it was never used unless a service user requested it.

We object to psychological formulation enacting a BPD diagnosis version in its description but without using the diagnostic words, as this is no different. We also oppose diagnosis creep of Personality Disorder encompassing more and more service users.

We also acknowledge that a diagnosis & deficit based description is still required for in-work and out of work benefits PIP, ESA, & Universal Credit regardless of whatever models are in vogue or preferred.

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Mental Health Resistance Network Protest 20th Nov #WeDemand

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#WeDemand
Please share far and wide
Westminster Health Forum Keynote Seminar
20th November 2018
Registration Time: 8:30 am
Start Time: 9:00 am
Venue: Royal Over-Seas League, Over-Seas House, Park Place, St James’s Street, London SW1A 1LR

Meet outside the venue at 8am. Bring whatever banners you want to bring. Be loud and be proud.

The whole thing is rotten to the core, so MHRN will be protesting this event which will bring together some of the people who have had a hand in preventing us from receiving appropriate care and a secure income.

In response to the abusive agenda of this government, MHRN has produced a document that outlines our demands. It is a living document and will be updated from time to time.

PDF MHRN

We will be launching our demands at the protest and presenting it to Claire Murdoch, National Mental Health Director, NHS England and will be sent to Cabinet and Shadow Ministers, MPs and anyone else we see fit to send it to and it will form the basis of our campaigning.

It will be an early start but it is an important protest and we want everyone who can make it to be there. And of course, it’s off to the pub/coffee shop after we have made our point.

Facebook event page