Time to stop denying link between DWP and death by suicide

It would be interesting to see if ministers, after the recent government announcements of better mental health treatment, are more prepared to accept that some people are trying to kill themselves because they find the DWP system so rough

43% of people claiming ESA have attempted suicide. (Page 3 of “Suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, and self harm” which is part of the adult psychiatric morbidity survey http://content.digital.nhs.uk/catalogue/PUB21748/apms-2014-suicide.pdf )

Here’s a nice graph: https://twitter.com/djmgaffneyw4/status/808455435183419393/photo/1 with some discussion about the data (eg, it’s age standardised, so actual number of attempts might be worse because ESA is mostly older more risky people)

The rules for ESA talk about risk. Section 13624 etc here: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/535091/dmgch13.pdf

It seems clear that the Work Capablity Assessment is not “fit for purpose”; half of the decisions are overturned on appeal: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/dwp-fit-to-work-esa-appeal-tribunal-a6923066.html

Here’s Jeremy Hunt saying there’s no causal link between ESA and death by suicide:


We have close working relations with the Department for Work and Pensions, which I shall come on to explain. I would urge caution, however, on the issue of suicide rates. The BMJ study said that no conclusions could be drawn about cause and effect from it. When it comes to work, we need to remember the many studies that talk about the improved health and wellbeing that comes from being in work, and the tremendous progress made, with 2 million additional jobs created over the last Parliament.

Mr Hunt is right when he says we don’t know what the reasons are for benefit claimants to attempt suicide, and we can’t say that all of them do so because their DWP treatment is so brutal. But he seems to be going further, and saying that no-one attempts suicide as a result of the horrific system.

We find other Conservative politicians saying exactly the same thing. Priti Patel said the same in 2015.

But DWP seems to realise that people claiming benefits can be suicidal: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/70850/response/174789/attach/3/FoI%201264%20Annex%20A.pdf

I think a cautious estimate would be that several hundred people have died by suicide because of the way the DWP handled them and their claim.

It is time to stop saying there’s no connection between the brutal DWP regime and deaths by suicide.

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