Employment and Mental Health from
One Users Perspective
Thank you for inviting me to speak about the importance of employment from a user perspective. First of all a few biographical points. I have a number of reasons to be interested in this subject. One is that I have been a user of mental health services who has tried to look for work after mental health problems so I speak from personal experience. Secondly the subject interests me because I trained as an economist. Thirdly I used to work at a university careers service in a project that was about helping disabled graduates find work and, because of my own problems, did some research about the problems of psychiatrically disabled graduates finding work (and maintaining themselves in it). Finally I am now development worker in a voluntary sector mental health project trying to create a environmentally orientated company creating voluntary activity, training and employment for users.
The first thing to note therefore is that someone like myself, variously diagnosed as manic depressive or schizophrenic, need not fit a stereotype as an incompetent mad axeman - he or she might be an economist, in employment, developing an employment project.
To continue in the same vein of trying to break down stereotyped assumptions you might like to consider the following passage that I found in Richard Warners book Recovery from Schizophrenia: Psychiatry and Political Economy. (Show acetate as below)
Ten factory workers wanted for private employment.
Must have a history of mental illness to qualify".
The production force of a toy company was recruited by this advertisement when it was run in a California newspaper in 1960. Eleven mentally ill applicants were hired; over half of them were schizophrenic, and all had been unemployed for a year or more. The work force proved to be efficient and, as the company expanded, more mentally ill people were hired. The company's personnel director, physician Ray Poindexter, reported, "that the type severity, and duration of the mental illness was not related to job performance. Disappearance of symptoms accompanied the opportunity to perform for an employer who had confidence in his employees and whose success in business depends on their work."
Poindexter, W. R. "Screening ex-patients for employability" in Blum and Kujoth, Job Placement and the emotionally disturbed.
in Richard Warner Recovery from Schizophrenia. Routledge, 1985 pp272-273.
I shall come in a few minutes to what mental distress is but let me first complete the process of destroying any myths. One of the points made by Richard Warner is that professional attitudes to the employability of their patients seems to vary with economic conditions. When there is full employment and professionals have seen patients succeed and restabilise in work settings, they become more optimistic, and more sold on the idea that their patients can hold down a job - and that it is beneficial for them to do so. In contrast in the last ten years or so it has become common for professionals to make negative assumptions about the employability of people with severe and persistent mental health problems. This is more a reflection of the difficulty of finding work, and the seeming futility of work related programmes, than a real picture of the lack of ability among patients.
Indeed when these issues are researched we find that mental health workers ability to predict how well users of mental health services will do in employment is virtually nil. Consider the following table of research findings about success in remunerated employment: (Acetate 2):
Success is not related to diagnosis or severity of symptoms.
Anthony, W A and Jansen M A (1984) The Vocational Capacity of the Chronically Mentally Ill. American Psychologist, 39.
Success is not related to success in adjusting to hospital.
Lorei T W and Gurel L (1973), Demographic Characteristics as Predictors of Post Hospital Employment, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 40.
Success is not related to the predictions of staff.
Anthony W A (1990) Psychiatric Rehabilitation, Boston University, p33.
Success is not related to levels of participation in sheltered workshops or traditional vocational programmes.
Ciardello J A Job Placement Success of Schizophrenic Clients In sheltered workshop programmes. Vocational Evaluation and Work Adjustment Bulletin 125-128. Bond G R ad Boyer S L The Evaluation of Vocational Programs for the mentally ill. A Review. in Ciardello JA and Bell M D (Eds) Vocational Rehabilitation of Persons with Prolonged Mental Illness. Baltimore. John Hopkins University Press. (1994?)
Conclusion - you cannot make any assumptions about a persons employability on the basis of a mental health diagnosis or the predictions of a mental health professional. This means abandoing stereotyped preconceptions and taking each person on her or his individual merits.
The last point is particularly interesting for it seems to suggest that even those who organise sheltered workshops and vocational programmes are unable to predict whether people will succeed or not - and there is, indeed, a yet further conclusion that one can draw. If traditional vocational programmes and participation in sheltered workshops makes no difference to whether one succeeds in employment or not are these arrangements any use in helping people into ordinary employment?
Here is another study that was based on several surveys of employers who had taken on people with a known mental heath problem and which looked at the users 'behavioural characteristics and employer reactions' (note the terminology) Note also that these were surveys that took place where users were highly visible: (Acetate)
'Behavioural characteristics' and Employer reactions
"Nearly 2/3 of our samples of known ex-patients exhibit no unusual behavioural characteristics to react to. We suspect that more still, having successfully concealed their illness, also pursue their course..."
"The overall picture in the samples was that 75% of employees attracted no complaints on account of odd behaviour, 90% attracted none on account of disagreeable behaviour and 96% attracted no complaints for dangerous behaviour"
Quotes from: Nancy Wansborough and Philip Cooper Open Employment After Mental Illness, Tavistock Publications, 1980.pp100-101
To some degree this seems encouraging - There are further points to note about the Wansborough and Cooper Study. When we take these further points into account I believe the situation is even more encouraging
(A) There was no control sample - as a user I found it to a degree offensive and unscientific that we do not know how many of all employees in the companies concerned did or did not attract complaints about slow work, odd behaviour, disagreeable behaviour or dangerous behaviour. If we had these figures we might have found that patients were not much different from anyone else - who knows they may have behaved less dangerously than their non - diagnosed colleagues for example. (B) We do not know, how many people attracted attention for behaving oddly or slow work because they were ex-patients so their eccentricities stood out more whereas those of non-diagnosed people had gone unnoticed. To Wansborough and Cooper "An example of disagreeable behaviour would be compulsive eating or picking about in dustbins. To talk to oneself rated as odd behaviour". (C) We do not know how much of the 'behavioural characteristics' were a negative reaction to being picked on by colleagues - it is not unknown for people to be persecuted because of their diagnostic label. In this case it would rather unfair to see this as an illness problem - it would be more a problem in other employees.
What is Mental Distress?
Now let me turn to what so called mental illness really entails. In this respect I will give you my own view of a subject that is open to interpretation and controversy. Mental health problems are where the thoughts, emotions and actions of a person are not understandable to those around him or her and that person is not coping - or others are not coping with that person. Behind the jargon which psychiatrists use - words like hallucination, mania, delusions, confusional states, paranoia, thought disorders etc. are really more powerful versions of what most people do in their day to day life - flashback memories to traumatic experiences, periods of excitement, wishful thinking, over pessimistic thinking or panicky interpretations about reality, over suspiciousness, impulsive behaviour, looking for 'signs' to be able to predict the future, fixations on ideas which seem to explain, or explain away, highly charged emotional problems or issues. These are all ways in which people react to situations of extreme emotional stress, particularly when their previous lives and childhoods have not prepared them to deal with the particular problems they have, or when earlier life is not rich enough in positive experiences to help a person ride through these periods of stress with an appropriate level of optimism. In our society these reactions are seen as symptoms of illness - and given a diagnostic label. ( Brian Davey: Madness and Its Causative Contexts; Changes -A International Journal of Psychology and Psychotherapy June 1994. Brian Davey Psychosis in Accepting Voices edited by Marius Romme and Sandra Escher, Granta Books, 1993).
The diagnostic label then, as we have seen, often quite unjustifiably, forms the basis of various predictions about the person which makes their problems worse. One of the crucial ways it makes their problems worse is that it effects the way they are assessed as potential employees. Although, as we have seen, a diagnosis, or the ideas of mental health workers, tell us nothing about how good people will be as workers, nevertheless the diagnosis, and the expectations of professionals and others, does often prevents people who have been very distressed going forward. (Acetate)
Mental Health Diagnosis Leads to Unemployment..........
"According to Ian, Dr Perkins told him that 'I might never work again and I'd have to content to be on the sick and cope and manage as best I can'. Ian is unwilling to settle for such a bleak denigrating definition of himself and his future and he continues to make plans and to attempt to hold onto a more optimistic sense of his capabilities. So, for example, he is presently studying for A level physics"
"I went to the Job Centre and said 'Look I want a part time job at the very least, can you help me?' and they said 'Well, aren't you signing on?' and I said not, and they said 'Well, what's the problem?' and I told them and they said 'Oh we usually find people from >that place< as they put it - the hospital - can't cope with a job."
From the Mental Patient to the Person - Peter Barham and Robert Hayward, Routledge, 1991, p45 and p 46.
The person with mental health problems is likely to become or remain unemployed and long term poor. When MIND did a survey of over 500 people with experience of in patient psychiatric treatment they found that 72% felt that their job prospects were affected by their mental health problems. Although over half were employed at the time of their crisis, only 11% were in full time employment when they were interviewed. In one study 625 of former psychiatric inpatients were unemployed when the national rate for the general population was 10%.
..............Unemployment contributes to Mental Health Problems
There is little doubt that this forms part of a vicious circle - for unemployment and poverty can be seen as causative of mental health problems in various ways.
Unemployment. The idea that unemployment gives rise to poor mental health is well established by a huge number of studies. It is known, for example, that the suicide rate varies with the level of unemployment. People who have been unemployed for a certain period of time in our culture tend to become demotivated and demoralised - and it seems reasonable that this arises out of the loss of social contact (loneliness) as well as the loss of structure to one's day and having no goal oriented activity.
"Many of the negative features of chronic schizophrenia are identical with the psychological sequela of long term unemployment" (Richard Warner p148)
Experiential deprivation and Psychosis
Very orthodox mainstream psychiatrists like J.K. Wing and G.W. Brown have recognised that " inactivity appears to be one of the greatest of dangers for the chronic schizophrenic patient and seems to be directly responsible for a certain proportion of clinical symptomatology such as flatness of affect, poverty of speech and social withdrawal." (quoted in Wansborough and Cooper p 5). What is missing here is the recognition that inactivity as experiential starvation may directly lead into psychosis itself. It is known, for example, that sensory deprivation leads to hallucinations "in the absence of the distractions of processing incoming sensory inputs, our inner mental life is revealed to us more powerfully. .....There are parallels here when a person lives an experience starved existence, without comforts, interests and the warmth of emotional involvement, their emotional and mental contents are thrown into clearer relief...When a person becomes lost in the dreams of their inner life, when they lose a coping reference to the reality around them, they are liable to follow chains of dreams, to memories of experience linked by emotional associations, right the way back to infancy and its primitive thought patterns. The context in which this occurs is likely to be one in which the person is feeling increasingly at a dead end: they lack a sense of agency unless they go into rebellion or disengagement from the interpersonal and wider circles in which they live. They drift into a sort of experiential limbo...The limbo then slides them into experiences other describe as psychotic..." (Brian Davey, Madness and Its Causative Contexts, Changes, June 1994, pp114-115).
Work is fundamental to recovery because it is part of the package that brings back the satisfactions of ordinary living. Without those satisfactions one lives a life starved of experience - one is alive but not living. This sense of missing out on life in an experience starved existence, of not living while one still has the chance to, of being powerless to effect the world in any way, not having any sense of agency or any place in the world where what one does makes some difference, this terror that one could die and it would be as if one had never existed, is at the very heart of madness. When that terror grips you it seems as if your sense of your self shrinks to a very tiny voice telling you to get to a hospital, a tiny voice in an ocean of fear, one's experience seems as fragile as soap bubble that could disappear without trace. I can say because I have been there.
American data from the mid 19th century up until the late 1960s found that Mental Hospital admissions for working age people increase in a slump probably in response to economic and labour market stresses. (Richard Warner, op cit. p. 56) During the Great Depression of the twenties and thirties there was a decreased recovery rate for patients suffering from schizophrenia. The outcome for people suffering from schizophrenia in very wealthy fully employed societies seems to be much more benign. For example Warner quotes a Swiss psychiatrist who speculates about the apparently better outcome for people suffering mental illness in Switzerland (a follow up study of schizophrenic patients at the University of Lausanne Psychiatric Clinic over the century found, that by the age of 65, 27% had recovered completely and a further 22% were only mildly disturbed). At the other extreme non industrialised societies, where people are productively active not through a labour market, also show better recovery rates - while prospects for the better educated in the Third World are, paradoxically, worse - "an outcome which may be explained by the greater labour market stresses affecting the educated." (p 170)
To a large extent mental health problems arise out of poverty
Money can't buy you love but grinding poverty can reduce one's very ability to form relationships. As George Orwell put it "Lack of money means discomfort, means squalid worries, means shortage of tobacco, means ever present consciousness of failure - above all it means loneliness." (George Orwell, Keep the Aspidistra Flying, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth Middlesex, 1986 p37.) Studies have shown that people most often meet their sexual partners at work or in the pub - an unemployed person has no work and little money for the pub. When Christine Drew of the Nottingham Health Authority asked mental health service users in Nottingham about their problems she found that the inability to buy new clothes lowered people's self esteem and their feelings about themselves in forming relationships. For those who do have relationships lack of money is an ever present strain - for example the struggle and worry of making ends meet if one does have a family. On top of this the operation of the social security and unemployment benefits system, like cohabitation rules, can prevent people living together, or pull them apart, with consequent emotional effects. When the benefit giro is held up one is not only thrown into an economic crisis one may be thrown into an emotional crisis.
"Clinical experience shows us that economic uncertainty is a serious stress for many patients. As social security regulations were tightened during the Reagan administration, for example, many stable psychotics whose disability payments were abruptly terminated suffered relapses of their illnesses. The mental condition of many psychotics similarly becomes worse when their most basic needs are not provided for. In the United States homeless, male, schizophrenics are admitted to hospital hungry, dirty, sleepless and floridly psychotic. When after some meals and a good nights sleep, their mental condition improves dramatically hospital staff claim that the patient 'manipulated' his way into free board and accommodation. More benign observers argue that the patients improvement is evidence of the efficacy of the dose of anti-psychotic medication he received on admission. In fact, such patients often improve as readily without medication. The florid features of their psychosis are an acute response to the stress of abject poverty and deprivation". (Warner p 132).
Job Hunting with a Diagnosis - Heads you lose - Tails you lose
If people do not always rush forward to try to get jobs it is because failure when job searching after mental illness can re-awaken awful emotional experiences. It can remind one of the repeated experience of rejection, it can recreate feelings of powerlessness, undermine self esteem and vulnerability.
With a diagnosis one is caught on the horns of a dilemma. If done does try to find work one may undermine an already fragile emotional state if one's attempts are repeatedly rebuffed and fail - leading to relapse. Yet if one does not try it seems that one will have no future. It is out of such no-win dilemmas that mental health problems can often get worse - they can become chronic.
Agonising over the 'revelation' question
Different users adopt different strategies in relation to this dilemma and if they do decide to try to get a job they agonise over whether or not they should reveal their mental health history of not. There are good reasons to believe that one may be rejected if one's diagnostic label is known - yet how can one conceal it if one has to take time off to get medication, how can one conceal it if a medical reference is wanted for insurance purposes. Would it not be a skeleton in the cupboard, a continual stress less one is found out? If one does not conceal one's mental health record how does one actually present it? How does one explain it? From my experience of job hunting, and from people I have talked to, these are the issues that go round and round in the mind - these are the kind of things that can wake you up early in the morning as one's mind tries to solve the unsolvable.
Getting a job with a diagnosis - What One fears.
Nor is it just as simple as finding a job. While one lives in fear that one will not find a job and in fear that one will be repeatedly rejected if one tries to find a job, one may also live in fear that if one does actually find it, one will fail in it or it will be embarrassing and difficult to hold down. To some degree such a fear may be the result of one's underlying psychological vulnerabilities to some degree it may be a realistic view both of the stresses of work and the added problems one may have if one is marked out by one's colleagues as 'having a mental problem'.
I do not wish to create any pre-conceptions about people with mental health problems but there probably is some truth in the idea that some users will be more vulnerable to the stress of orienting themselves to new work relationships and new work tasks. Very many people with mental health problems have been emotionally injured earlier in their lives and "too much of their past has conditioned them to being threatened, ignored, used...consequently they will tend to interpret their current life with expectations of pain, or with a sense of guilt, an assumption that whatever they do will be wrong, so they had better do nothing. They will see the same world as a less damaged person and where the one will see opportunities, interests, challenges and enjoyments the other will see and anticipate sources of tension, failure, things they would make a hash of." (Brian Davey, Madness and Its Causative Contexts, Changes: An International Journal of Psychology and Psychotherapy, Vol. 12. No.2 p 114).
It is important here to realise that what is stressful may only actually be the period of transition, the times when a person is confronted with a new work setting, the need to orientate to the new. Once a person has become familiar with a work setting, then if that work setting is appropriate to his or her needs, all might subsequently be well.
Unfortunately there does have to be a match between person and work setting and this will not always be there.
Work stress and the degree of control over the labour process
Firstly work can itself be stressful - and secondly it can be even more stressful and difficult to cope with if one has a diagnostic label and is marked out as different among one's colleagues.
There is a certain amount of research literature which looks at the mental health consequences of work itself. Although it does not figure prominently in the mental health literature there is enough evidence that work can in some circumstances also be bad for your mental health. What is particularly important is how much control you have over the labour process. A review of the English language literature by Michael Joffe of the Department of Clinical Epidemiology at the London Hospital Medical School in 1985 shows that much of the literature about work stress is actually about control, or lack of control, by the worker in the work environment. Obviously a mismatch between worker and work environment is less likely the more control the worker has to adjust her or his environment (whether at the minute to minute level of work tasks, day to day organisation of the components of work, strategic control of the direction of work, the setting of targets and goals, whether over job security and career building etc.) Much of the literature, cited by Joffe, relates to industrial workers and shows that people in repetitive and low skilled or unskilled jobs are more likely to suffer from poor mental health. Joffe cites evidence, for example, from a study from Detroit by Kornhauser. (Kornhauser, A : Mental Health of the Industrial Worker: A Detroit Study. John Wiley and Sons Inc., New York, 1965).
"Overall the results showed that feelings of inadequacy, low self esteem, hostility, dissatisfaction with life and low personal morale were extremely widespread in this group of workers. The outstanding finding was that mental health varied consistently with the workers occupational level....The hypothesis that such effects were due to selection effects (or 'drift') were looked at with extreme care but it was established that the poor mental health of the less skilled workers could not be explained by other factors such as childhood deprivation...Several job characteristics were tested to elucidate which of them might be important determinants of the observed mental health differences...By far the most influential characteristic was the scope to use one's abilities at work. The other....which showed a similar though less marked effect was income...." (The quote is from Joffe, not Kornhauser, (The Health Effects of Control Over Your Own Work, Mimeo, produced for the Greater London Council, 1985).
Diagnosis - narrowing the choice, narrowing the possibilities for control
This is important because in a variety of ways the diagnostic label narrows the range of choice and control people users are likely to have over work.
Firstly it narrows the range of choice of what work users might be allowed to do in the first place. When I worked at the Disabled Graduates Data Bank at the University of Nottingham Careers Service I did a small survey of graduates who had suffered mental health problems and found that an issue for many was, to use the terminology, should they 'trade down' - i.e. take a job below their qualifications and skills. There was a prevalent assumption among career advisers and employment department workers that this might be a more realistic way for people to find their way back to work and that by trading down people would be better able to cope because such jobs would be 'less stressful'. Some graduates had 'traded down' - however for others this was not an option because employers regarded them as 'overqualified' In any case the idea that traded down jobs would be somehow less stressful is often a nonsense. I repeat Kornhausers central finding - that the most influential characteristic on mental health at work was the scope people had to use their abilities. Trading down is reducing the scope to use one's abilities. Working way below one's full abilities is not less stressful - it can reawaken that deep sense that one is wasting one's life.
Very often when one is a mental health service user one does not trust one's own feelings. For several months while unemployed I lived in a sort of helpless dread that a Disablement Resettlement Officer, who was trying to be helpful, would send me to an Employment Rehabilitation Centre. For some while this looked like happening because although he knew I had two degrees in Economics all he could think of was 'rehabilitating me' on a course learning clerical skills like typing, photocopying and filing. Needless to say I could already type and photocopy, layout and print magazines, and had done virtually every clerical task that there is in the various jobs I had already had - I have always have to do my own clerical and secretarial work. Retrospectively I can see my feelings of gloom at the prospect of the 'rehabilitation' as fully justified - indeed the despair that is frequently generated by being 'helped' by someone who needs to be seen to be doing something to justify their salary, rather than leaving things alone, is often, I feel, fully justified.
Starting a new job is stressful for anyone - one meets new people, has to orientate oneself in new settings, to new tasks. How much more stressful then is this likely to be when one is considering whether and how to reveal to workmates and colleagues about one's psychiatric problems. Work settings have varying degrees of tolerance or intolerance.
Financial reasons not to job hunt - the benefit system
I have argued that there are plenty of psychological reasons which might discourage a return to work. To these must also be added some pretty powerful financial ones. In the system one is either 'sick' and earning various incapacity benefits like invalidity benefit - or one is 'able to work'. It is often not financially viable for someone to come off benefits and take a low paid job. Applying to be allowed therapeutic earnings in addition to ones invalidity benefit is sometimes a way round this problem but agreement has to be got from the DSS and the work must be different in quantity and quality from the claimants usual occupation.
The Problems in Summary
I started by saying that one could draw no conclusions about people's competence in work from their mental health diagnosis or from the predictions of their mental health workers and drew attention to data that showed the record of people who have had mental health problems and found work is not so bad. If we had control samples we would probably find that people with a psychiatric history do not do markedly worse in work. Nevertheless we have seen that people after mental health problems find it very difficult to get work and the mental health services and the employment services must bear part of the blame for that - by their discouraging negative self fulfilling prophecies.
Unemployment and poverty then makes mental health problems worse. Indeed poverty and unemployment can be said to be part of the causative context that often gives rise to mental health problems in the first place - or they can turn an acute crisis into a chronic long term problem.
If users do not rush to try to get jobs that is partly because they have good reasons to fear being rejected, that they are likely to have a more limited range of dead end and demoralising choices in what they could do.
When and where they find work then, the lack of confidence and assertiveness that may disable them in new settings can easily by may be accentuated by rejection and stigma in a new work place. In addition there are financial disincentives built into the benefits system in looking for work.
Are there any solutions? I believe that there are but I do not believe that on any substantial scale mainstream mental health services have either the knowledge, will, interest or ability to connect most mental health service users into the mainstream economy. The solutions will not be found in the mainstream mental health services or the mainstream economy. The elements of the solution are to be found in:
1. User run employment initiatives - or employment initiatives which users develop with non-mental health workers whose goals are social, community or environmentally orientated. There are a variety of forms of social and productive activity which are not for profit and where the goals of enterprises are based on a sense of what is socially and environmentally useful rather than on private gain. In these circles and social networks one is more likely to meet people in non-stigmatising settings if only because activists and entrepreneurs in these settings have already started out from a sense of social, citizen and community responsibility. They make good business partners and fellow workers.
2. Work settings that start out from the social networks of the user movement - because they are non stigmatising and therefore not so frightening to get involved with. User projects they can demonstrate to a wider community what users can do. Users come from all works of life and will often be found to have the skills necessary for work schemes far more that these skills are to be found in the mental health services.
3. Work that is mutual aid and in the domestic economy - where people do not necessarily have to be employed to be the beneficiaries of their own labour. The domestic economy and informal work exchange, if it was given a market valuation, would represent about 60% of British Gross National Product. If home based activities were paid more in the market it would be much higher. Swedish studies show that the domestic economy totals 7 billion hours per year against 6 billion in the formal economy (public and private sectors). It is important to recognise, therefore, that when we add together all those activities which together create human well being they happen as much, indeed more, outside paid work.
DIY work around homes and gardens makes a lot of sense for ecological reasons. Skills and activities could be connected to emerging ecological economic activity. The ecological vision indeed takes its starting point in the home and neighbourhood rather than the workplace ( and business). Restructuring production arrangements so that ecological problems are prevented from arising in the first place (as opposed to 'end of pipe' measures) stress housing and neighbourhoods as the key place for change. Household insulation reduces the demand for energy; solar heating and voltaic technologies can harvest energy on roofs; innovative multi-functional urban agriculture projects, which mimic forest systems on a micro-scale, and create 'edible landscapes', reduce the need for distant packaged sources of food from a petrochemical based agriculture; the separation, composting or re-use of wastes has to be organised first, from houses and is optimally used locally; drink water saving measures, rainwater use, grey water recycling and black water disposal are also best (re-) organised in neighbourhood strategies. (Ekhart Hahn, Ecological Urban Restructuring. Science Centre, Berlin, 1991). The original Greek work from which the words economics and ecology were derived was oikos meaning home. We need a strategy based on moving back to an integration of the meaning.
A Possible Model
The sort of model that this suggests to me, that we are beginning to work towards in Nottingham, looks like this:
Networks of users of mental health services and other disadvantaged people engaged in
informal work activities of a Do It Yourself Character (and then small scale contracts for money) - not all the activities need be seen rigidly as 'work' (food preparation would lead to food consumption and many events would be organised as much for their social and enjoyment function as for training)
These activities would be done with support and training from qualified project workers (and volunteers) and training agencies - this is to ensure that the work is of a high quality and health and safety is ensured.
They would be aimed at cheap and/or improved household and domestic arrangements (e.g. food growing, catering and food preparation, home insulation to reduced fuel bills etc.) and or improvements in and around the centres used by those involved.
The activities would have as the theme of ecological renovation of homes and gardens and domestic living arrangements.
To give the project a strategic direction which integrated its participants into wider policies and socio-economic processes, as well as into urban regeneration policies, the project workers would also spend a portion of their time working towards more ambitious projects that connect the networks and work groups that emerge with the new sector of ecological economic activity.
© BRIAN DAVEY