Social security and disabling bureaucracy (1)

From interviews and diaries it transpires that the social security system creates fear and barriers, traumatises claimants, disincentivises potential claimants from applying, & reproduces harmful, antagonistic narratives between supposed ‘skivers’ and ‘strivers’. As a social institution, it includes various levels of hierarchy, decision-makers, and processes. In the case of disability- and work-related social security, there are at least six easily identifiable groups of individuals whom a claimant encounters: (1) medical professionals (with their own layers of hierarchies, practices, and institutions); (2) the ‘work capability’ assessors (often not medically trained staff, employed by multi-billion and multinational corporations paid by the govt for this work); (3) Job Centre workers employed by the Department of Work and Pensions who review and make decisions based on the assessors’ reports; (4) Job Coaches who manage claimants’ job search work, and when applicable (5) employer(s) & (6) the NHS work-related scheme.

The above list may become much longer to also include other national and local state institutions and workers within them who may not even be known to the applicants. These other parties could be: managers of frontline staff (in Job Centres and other institutions) as well as lawyers, advocates, charities, trade union reps, and Tribunals (for appeals) to name but a few. At any level of this conundrum, disabling barriers to accessing and maintainig social security are often reproduced through extensive and unclear paperwork, bureaucratic rules, discrimination, lack of clarity, traps in processes, surveillance, and more. At any level of this conundrum, disabling barriers to accessing and maintainig social security are often reproduced through extensive and unclear paperwork, bureaucratic rules, discrimination, lack of clarity, traps in processes, surveillance, and more.

There’s so much more to say on this (of course). The question is: why is the system of social security allowed to continue to be so disabling and exclusionary? How can it be changed? The Commission on Social Security are working on addressing some of these questions (and many more). Their draft proposals are available here: commissiononsocialsecurity.org/draft-proposals 

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