Enemy Sighted

18 06 2011

I seem to be averaging a post a day, apologies if this is a touch excessive. This post comes in the light of a few things which got me thinking about something fundamental in mental health. Our one true enemy.

When British MP Philip Davies happened upon an idea that those with mental health problems and learning difficulties should be allowed to work for below minimum wage (click here to see what he said) the whole Twitterverse went into meltdown. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mr Davies has ignored his Twitter feed since the news broke.

He did state that this idea was borne out of a meeting with service users at a local Mind charity place. This I believe. I believe that people said they were so desperate to work that they’d take a cut in wages. So logic dictates that they should be allowed to in order to get what they most desire. Of course the mental health world went ballistic. The implication was that the stigma attached to having a mental health problem or learning disability is accepted and as such people in those catagories are worth less to employers.

There’s nothing new in this thinking as given the option, employers will go for the man over the woman, the person with a house and a family over the single person living with their parents. The fit and able person over the person with a disability of any kind. Employers are taking the risk out of employment by reducing the level of hassle it would create. It isn’t right, but it’s what they do.

What gets me is that whilst you have an MP stating a good idea badly executed, you have people making a stand against this having their legs cut from under them. The title of this blog is ‘Enemy Sighted’ and it has been sighted, it has a name, and that is…

Us.

How can you have people who are desperate to work, a desperation I fully understand having felt it myself, and willing to do whatever they can to make it happen when people will instantly shout down anyone who suggests that we let them? Ok, this may sound right wing but here’s the left wing kicker. How come we have charities and non-profit organisations who will offer paid work to those who need it yet are allowed to pay the staff not even half the minimum wage for the youngest person? They do, and they do it under the guise of providing support and experience.

What the hell is going on people? Can we all sing from the same hymn sheet or shall we mess about saying one thing and doing another?

I’m sick and tired of this happening. Can you really be surprised that stigma is rife when we look like a bunch of complete idiots who couldn’t organise a damn good knees up in the local brewery? It may seem harsh for me to say this but if you’ve ever experienced a group meeting with service users (and yes I’m including myself here) where they are rightly given choices as to what happens, most don’t have an opinion or just don’t want to say what’s right or wrong.

There’s no sign of a considered reply to Mr Davies’ comments insofar as looking objectively at what he’s saying, correcting glaring mistakes, and proposing an alternative which then would create some serious thought. Yes people have corrected him by suggesting that he is justifying stigma. So what’s the alternative? Anyone got a better idea?

As it happens I do. Employers look at cost/benefit when looking at prospective employees. I won’t deny that short of the government and multinational companies, the cost can look too high for an employer looking at someone with MH problems or learning disability. So why can’t the government introduce a back to work plan to help reduce this possible cost? Not put us at an advantage, but level the playing field in the employers eyes.

The minimum wage is something I agree with, no-one should be paid less than that, not even those who are currently ’employed’ by the charities and non-profit organisations I mentioned before. However, there needs to be a way to make it work so the employee gets a fair wage and a job, the employer gets a potentially excellent employee without taking too big a risk, and the government gets someone into employment which benefits them in so many different ways.

It’s highly unlikely that this plan will happen. It’s far more likely that I will catch a lot of flak for what I’ve said. I don’t care. If you can’t be bothered to enter into constructive dialogue about it then you perpetuate the very problem we face. Of not helping things to go forward. Of keeping the cause of equality, at best, treading water.

I can’t help but sigh as the pent up frustration finally vents. C’mon people, lets get it together. Let’s not let the good work done by Mind and Rethink go to waste. We really need to put our necks on the line now, not shout from behind the baricade.

‘The only thing needed for evil to prosper is for a few good people to do nothing’ – Edmund Burke. We’re all good people. Let’s do something.

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6 responses

18 06 2011
Pandora

If charities are paying people less than the minimum wage, whether or not an employee agreed to it, then they are breaking the law (depending on age and exceptions like apprenticeships). Having worked for two major charities, I know that they are notoriously shite to work for, but paying people less than others at the same level as them is completely beyond acceptability.

Davies did not say “learning disabilities and mental health problems”; he confused the two as being one and the same, thus displaying his ignorance surrounding the issues.

I really can’t agree that the problem is ‘us’. It’s stigma and inequality. Racism is still rife amongst certain people; if Davies had met a group of black or Asian people who said that they’d expect the nice British Aryan to be chosen over them at an interview and subsequently suggested that they should be grateful to work for less than the minimum wage, there would have been uproar (and quite rightly so). I fail to see how the demographic to which he did refer should be any different.

He’s explicitly stated he doesn’t agree with the minimum wage in principle. I have no view of this really, so am not angry about that. But the thing is, it’s presently law. He’s welcome to go around campaigning against it – but using the (spun) words of vulnerable people to make his ideological point is offensive and degrading.

18 06 2011
theurbanworrier

No no no no no!
sorry, this isn’t a considered comment, but I’m so motivated on this one I just have to yowl straight out.
There *should not* be wage discrimination. this issue (as you picked up) isn’t just about mentals. as a woman, and one from a ‘girls profession’ my wages have already been fucked up royally. add in my age (what if I produce children?!) and the fact I’m mental, yeah, there’s no chance I’m going to be working, let alone getting what I’m worth (IQ, post-graduate, experience of multi-million pound budget management, yada yada)
we as mentals cannot speak in any way that might set a precendent for anyone else. that arsehole picked out a few random comments (and there are always random comments in any meeting) to justify a calculated, deliberate, tory policy. (and I’m not anti-tory, just anti-acting-without-a-mandate)

the existence of unpaid/less-remunerated work creates division, whether it’s some bint doing a bit of work in daddy’s golfing buddy’s barrister’s firm, or subsidised-salary schemes. (I’m gonna quit now, but will just say that in sweden subsidised-salary schemes do work. but let’s look at the precedent set by the thatcher back to work schemes. that’s the reality for britain, and conservative govts post-thatcher are even more ‘thatcherite’ than our baroness)

18 06 2011
theurbanworrier

oh, and the other point is that he (and the labour chap!) is assuming mentals are less productive. my furry fucking arse. I’ve worked in the civil service and in FTSE 100s, and in both the fuckwits who came in on the last conservative govt’s YTS schemes (ie, just regular young people) were incapable of doing a decent hour’s worth of work 25 years into their ‘careers’. mentals, blacks, lesbians, whatevers, were all more productive. I think there’s a serious issue about these ’employability schemes’ creating false expectations. hmm, maybe i need to join the bandwagon and do my own post on this rather than abusing your own space. especially since I’ve just clocked that that dickhead thinks it’s perfectly acceptable that a vulnerable person is expected to ‘negotiate’ their salaries with employers. (even unions can’t successfully negotiate a salary)

I *WILL* shut up now.

19 06 2011
nullfuture

Urgh. I really do need to write my rants and then NOT post them till I’ve settled down. I’ll be damned if I know what the hell I was thinking on this one. Apologies all, didn’t do a good job

22 06 2011
Philip Davies, Mental Health and the Minimum Wage » Confessions of a Serial Insomniac

[…] noted the following on a blog post that initially complained about the furore surrounding Mr Davies’ […]

11 07 2011
Rachael Black

There is no such thing as ‘excessive posts’ my friend!

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