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Activating the ‘ideal jobseeker’: Experiences of individuals with mental health conditions on the UK Work Programme

journal contribution
posted on 2020-06-24, 00:00 authored by F Scholz, Jo IngoldJo Ingold
Active labour market programmes (ALMPs) are critical preparation mechanisms to assist people to enter the workplace. This article analyses qualitative data from a hard-to-access group of individuals with mental health conditions (MHCs) participating in a large-scale UK ALMP, the Work Programme (WP). Using the lens of the ‘extended social model of disability’ and the concept of the ‘ideal worker’, the article demonstrates that ableist norms of the ‘ideal jobseeker’ were embedded within the Programme’s design, prioritising individuals with certain abilities and behaviour over others. Second, the article extends Acker’s framework of inequality regimes to demonstrate that formal and informal inequality practices within the Programme maintained, rather than challenged, disability inequality. This was visible along four dimensions: (1) ALMPs as organising processes producing disability inequality; (2) the visibility of disability inequality; (3) the legitimacy of disability inequality; and (4) control and compliance derived from hierarchical social relations within ALMP design and implementation, involving either stabilising or destabilising effects on disabled jobseekers. The theoretical and practical contributions of this article demonstrate that the design of the WP as an employment preparation mechanism pushed disabled jobseekers further away from paid employment, rather than towards workplace inclusion.



Human Relations


1 - 24


SAGE Publishing


Thousand Oaks, CA







Publication classification

C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal; C Journal article

Copyright notice

2020, The Authors