The purpose of this paper is to shed much needed light on lived experience in the context of worklessness coupled with welfare receipt in Ireland. In doing so, the work ethic is presented as an objective social force that can be imposed externally and in a number of social and administrative contexts. Coupled with this, receiving welfare is argued as being a ‘problematic’ and potentially shameful social position. On this basis, it will be shown how worklessness and welfare receipt can coalesce to form a ‘toxic symbiosis’, something which can deeply and negatively affect those who experience it. The claims made in this paper are based on original research conducted in Ireland, in which 22 people were interviewed about their general experiences of being welfare recipients and their interactions with the Irish welfare state. Drawing on rich qualitative data, epistemic integrity is offered through depth of understanding meaning that what is presented here sheds lights on the social implications of the continuous denigration of welfare recipiency coupled with the continuous valorisation of work. In a practical sense, this suggests that, on the one hand, a new, less corrosive societal relationship with work is both desirable and necessary in respect to the well-being of persons, while on the other, a more holistic approach to the administration of welfare, in which a return to work is only one part of an overall approach, is both needed and ultimately more humane.