590 suicides: DWP denial is wrong – or an attempt to hide the facts

[Image: www.disabledgo.com]

[Image: www.disabledgo.com]

Nobody should have been surprised by the Department for Work and Pensions’ response to the revelation that suicide and mental illness soared in roughly equal measure to the amount of work capability assessments taking place, between 2010 and 2013.

As predicted on This Blog yesterday evening, a spokesperson said: “The authors themselves caution that no conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect.”

But this is interesting: “It is concerning that they provide no evidence that the people with mental health problems highlighted in the report even underwent a Work Capability Assessment.”

No, they didn’t – but there were several factors affecting this: Firstly, the availability of accurate information, and secondly, whether this was a study that needed to focus exclusively on benefit claimants.

Professor Louis Appleby, a government adviser on suicide and mental health, thinks it was. He tweeted: “True figure for suicide linked to WCA likely to be less than in today’s study: could work out exact number if DWP gave access to individual cases.”

But we don’t have access to individual cases. The DWP has made it abundantly clear that Conservative Government ministers have deliberately chosen not to record medical information such as the cause of a claimant’s death – and in any case (again by deliberate choice), no effort has been made to keep track of claimants whose benefit claim has been halted.

It would, therefore, be pointless to rely on information from the DWP!

But Jonathan Portes of the National Institute for Economic and Social Research (NIESR) told This Writer that, in any case, the DWP’s response “reflects a basic misunderstanding of how you do this sort of analysis! Looking at WCA cases would be precisely wrong. You need to be able to control for selection – to do that here, [you] need to look at [the] whole population.

“Let’s try [an] example. Does Coke make you fat? You can’t just look at people who drink coke & ask if they’re fatter, but if in areas where Coke [is]cheap, [and] people [are] on average fatter, *controlling for everything else*, that does tell you something.”

So, in order to ensure that the correct cause is ascribed to any particular effect, those who carried out the study had to examine the health of the population as a whole, and eliminate elements that could relate to everybody, rather than just those who took the work capability assessment. They needed to rule out “unobserved confounding” – unseen elements contributing to the results.

Is that what happened?

Here’s what the study’s authors had to say: “We found no significant association between the reassessment rate and trends in self-reported mental health problems and suicides in the over 65-year-old population, (ie, people over retirement age and therefore not subject to the WCA reassessment process).

“We also found no association with trends in heart conditions in the working age population, or trends in prescribing of cardiovascular drugs (ie, health conditions that would not plausibly be affected by the WCA reassessment process, in the short term at least).

“These test results suggest that the observed association between the reassessment process and mental health outcomes in the working-age population is not due to unobserved confounding.”

That comment would not have been possible if the study had focused on benefit claimants exclusively, and not the general population.

The study was subjected to further tests, though: “As our main analysis was based on aggregate data, it is possible that changes in composition of these populations could explain the results. To explore this further we analysed individual level data from the Labour Force Survey in a multilevel model, further controlling for a number of individual characteristics including age and sex, labour market status (employed, unemployed and inactive), number of physical chronic illnesses and level of education. This analysis gave very similar results as that based on aggregate data.

“In additional analysis we also controlled for differential trends by the level of rurality in each area and trends in initial assessments for out-of-work disability benefits and found these did not change our results.”

So – in the words of Mr Portes, “controlling for everything else” – the study produced the same increase in antidepressant prescribing, mental illness and suicide, indicating that the significance of these rises was that they coincided with the imposition of the work capability assessment on benefit claimants.

In This Writer’s opinion, the DWP comment was a rather desperate attempt at ass-covering. Ministers had believed they had eliminated any way of relating their flawed, tick-box assessment – which takes no account of medical conditions in establishing whether a person is fit for work, remember – with the deaths or suicides of claimants. Now they have discovered that they were mistaken.

Again we come back to the issue of freedom of information. All the way down the line, the facts about the effects of these tests have been deliberately hidden from the public by a government that is happy to remove our privacy and tell us, “If you’ve nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.”

What is the Conservative Government afraid we’ll discover?

Perhaps now is the time to demand a full inquiry into the practical results of the work capability assessment regime…

An inquiry to be followed by criminal prosecutions.

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  1. Nick November 18, 2015 at 1:05 am - Reply

    the bottom line is mike is that 590 suicides:means the country is a bad place to be as it’s the tip of the iceberg however the figures are interpreted and are a great cause of concern

  2. Jeffery Davies November 18, 2015 at 6:36 am - Reply

    The great cull carries on without much ado yet they know damn well that the figures bandied about aren’t close to the actual figures but hiding them away from the populace is their way otherwise the peasants would rise if they truly new how many jeff3

  3. Barry Davies November 18, 2015 at 7:53 am - Reply

    The old lies damned lies and then there is statistics springs to mind and reading your post shows that the government are allowing people to see meaningless statistics whilst hiding ones which show a different outcome. “We found no significant association between the reassessment rate and trends in self-reported mental health problems and suicides in the over 65-year-old population.” Well lets be honest if someone commits suicide they are very unlikely to self report the fact, and self diagnosis of a mental health problem is not likely to be accurate so why even mention this in a report?

    • Mike Sivier November 18, 2015 at 12:20 pm - Reply

      “Self-reported mental health problems” would be where people have gone to their doctors and said that they think they have a mental illness. “Suicides” are separate from those, of course. Mention of the over-65 population was as a ‘control’ group against which the results for the working-age population could be compared, because the over-65s don’t have to claim working-age benefits like ESA or PIP.
      You are right about allowing people to see meaningless statistics; it is especially a problem where people read interpretations into those statistics that simply aren’t there.

  4. thomassutcliffe November 18, 2015 at 8:52 am - Reply

    Certainly time for those running the DWP to face serious questioning – my suggested venue for said questioning being The Hague – with IDS first into the dock.

  5. Mr.Angry November 18, 2015 at 9:33 am - Reply

    In total agreement with Mr.Mike, the government are hidings the facts and will continue to do so, we need a handsome fund to pay a DWP whistleblower to come clean with the facts and expose this bunch of evil wrongdoers.

  6. Dez November 18, 2015 at 10:49 am - Reply

    Sounds like the Coroner Court is the last chance saloon in picking up any association between the suicide and their benefit/work assessment results. And as we know the chief Coroner is not inclined to interfere in the independence of local Coroners or more helpfully ask them to keep an eye open for any such DWP association. Sounds like they have all their backsides covered by the system……knighthoods all round.

  7. Citizen X November 18, 2015 at 11:33 am - Reply

    Libel Tourists – another method to hide the facts by gagging writers and whistleblowers:

    “Citizen campaigners and investigative journalists in Scotland can still face defamation threats from wealthy individuals and companies who do not care to be criticised, and there is now a risk that libel tourists will start bringing cases to Edinburgh.”

    “Some journalists admit to thinking twice before exposing wrongdoing, fearing an expensive defamation action even if they were in the right. Those journalists just have to be read in Scotland” [for libel action to be taken against them].



    Watch out, MIke, your comments can be read in Scotland!!

    • Mike Sivier November 18, 2015 at 12:33 pm - Reply

      What is the connection between this and the article?

      • Citizen X November 18, 2015 at 12:58 pm - Reply

        Hello Mike

        You ask: What is the connection between this and the article?

        Will it ever get to the stage when writers like yourself will be silenced by powerful people – even when you are in the right? That was the point of my post.

        You will certainly be aware of the breathtaking obfuscation already surrounding the benefit death figures. This government will stop at nothing to conceal the truth.

        • Mike Sivier November 18, 2015 at 1:21 pm - Reply

          It depends whether they are allowed (by the voting public) to change the law to such a degree that it becomes illegal to publish anything that isn’t pro-government propaganda. We’re not there yet, thank goodness. Hopefully the population-at-large will wake up before we get there.

      • Florence November 18, 2015 at 1:16 pm - Reply

        Mike, we all know that this type of threat is going to be made, and more so as you help us inch towards the truth. This comment just illustrates the “sophistication” of those doing the threatening, to think they can make this type of soft threat without us spotting them. Yet again, it shows they so underestimate the opposition growing daily among the informed, and of course any “rogue” journalist (ie independent, with a readership) as yourself is a major threat, because there is no direct leverage like a publisher to push the button on.

        • Mike Sivier November 18, 2015 at 1:18 pm - Reply

          The threat implied in the message didn’t bother me at all.
          I was wondering how the commenter could possibly connect it with my article on the work capability assessment study.

      • Florence November 18, 2015 at 1:25 pm - Reply

        I appreciate that threat will not have any effect. I was trying to say that of course there was no link to your article, it was just the day to deliver a message. It’s the way these things are done, believe me, it’s so ham-fisted.

  8. enigma November 18, 2015 at 11:40 am - Reply

    communication between DWP and minsters.

    From: Disabled people against Cuts, 19 October 2015

    The DWP have been quoted as saying ‘“We strongly reject the allegations made by DPAC” in reference to the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled Persons ongoing inquiry process into grave and systematic violations and the retrogression of disabled peoples’ rights in the UK .

    This quote has now appeared in a number of media . It suggests a breach in confidentiality re submitted documentation and key issues raised by Disabled People against Cuts (DPAC) through an external government body.

    As a result we are requesting: Any communications between the DWP and ministers that mention DPAC between Jan and Oct 2015.


  9. digger November 18, 2015 at 1:12 pm - Reply

    it was the culls the culls that make me death!

    • Mike Sivier November 18, 2015 at 1:19 pm - Reply

      I beg your pardon?

  10. digger November 18, 2015 at 1:31 pm - Reply

    The cull mike,its a play on words did not you read Jeffreys comment

    • Mike Sivier November 18, 2015 at 1:33 pm - Reply

      I read them all but sometimes there are subtleties that fly over my head.

  11. anon November 18, 2015 at 3:36 pm - Reply

    Some interesting DWP figures were released 18 months ago, showing that as of 2013 HALF of benefit claimants had a diagnosed mental illness:

    “In 2010 just 221,000 with mental disorders were in receipt of out of work benefits.
    But official statistics show the figure leapt to 861,000 last year [2013] – a rise of 289 per cent.”


    So in just three years of Tory disability benefit ‘reforms’ and assessments, there was an exponential rise in claimants suffering breakdowns. Presumably, pre-2010, the vast majority of claimants with mh disorders had been the ‘routine’ claimants needing support for a primary mh diagnosis.

    But with the advent of IDS, it appears that people who had simply been unemployed, or with physical health conditions, started to develop mental health issues.

    So these older figures, actually published and acknowledged by the DWP, would seem to totally support this new study.

    This probably also explains exactly why the WCA was changed to that claimants with, say, Parkinson’s (involving both physical and mh aspects) started being told that they could not score points for both their physical and cognitive issues.

    Again, the intrusion of CBT (a victim-blaming Humanism-based and thus RELIGIOUS CULT… not science… founded by Humanist nut-jobs) therapists and treatments in Jobcentres (something which presumably under the Geneva Convention can NOT be lawfully mandated to any claimant!) seems to be a tacit admission that the DWP knows perfectly well that its methods are seriously damaging peoples’ mental health.

    • no bull November 19, 2015 at 9:28 am - Reply

      If the DWP had nothing unpalletable to hide from the public we would have the facts instead of carefully chosen ones that obscure the truth. It is no secret that austerity is a control mechanism and plays a part in the nwos agenda. Dont expect the truth from liars who only pretend to be in charge. The bankers pull poliitician strings. Politicians then pull our strings. And we are all heading to a feudal society. You can see this in photographs of the faces of these evil politicians. They are front men who are incapable of running a country. But they can act and read a script.

  12. Nessie (@wildcandytuft) November 19, 2015 at 1:55 pm - Reply

    Mike, the ONS publish figures and trends in suicides. In 2013 there were 4,858 male suicides registered in the UK. Men aged 45 to 59 had the highest suicide rate out of any age group, having increased since 2007 to reach 25.1 deaths per 100,000 population, the highest rate since 1981.

    When the mortality statistics relating to your FOI requests were finally published in obfuscated form, I did notice that the age-specific mortality rate for men aged 25-59 in the WRAG was 664, higher still for the ‘unknown’ and much greater than the same age group in the general population at 184.6. I understand that you don’t give any credence to these figures, and this connection is spurious, but surely there shouldn’t be such a difference as these men had found fit enough for work related activity and were expected to fully recover. Why did they die?

    I was just reminded of men like Trevor Drakard.

    In 2010 a coroner asked the DWP “to consider a review of the policy not to seek advice from a claimant’s own GP or psychiatrist if they are suffering from a mental illness in determining whether a benefit claimant is fit for work”. Still that doesn’t always happen.
    There are too many similar stories with out there. An inquiry is urgently needed, and much overdue.

  13. mrmarcpc November 20, 2015 at 4:47 pm - Reply

    IDS and his stupid, smug bitch sidekick will hide everything that is connected to what they are doing and getting away with, which is murder, when they do finally get kicked out of office, nothing will get done, they will all get away with it like they always do!

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