We use critical social theory to examine how the problem of long-term unemployment is understood within policies and practices, and how service providers play a mediating role between government policy and unemployed service users. We view the current policy and service delivery context as shaping particular understandings of long-term unemployment. As a result of this, we seek to identify the possibilities and boundaries of these understandings to explain the actions of service providers and those experiencing long-term unemployment. Our approach is equally concerned with how individuals experiencing long-term unemployment negotiate the complexity of everyday life to make ends meet for themselves and their families and contribute to their communities. We are working to create solutions that support individuals not only in their goals around employment, but also around their sense of security in terms of the resources and supports required to manage everyday life.