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Iain Duncan Smith can’t prove us wrong. He deliberately refuses to collect the statistics that would confirm his claims – or ours.
Instead, he has claimed that This Blog (and presumably others) has accused him of “outrageous action”, without providing a scrap of evidence against the allegation.
This Writer is delighted that the Gentleman Ranker has tried to defend himself. I am currently working on a book covering this subject and his words may provide an excellent introduction.
The man we like to call RTU (Return To Unit – a Forces description of someone who trained to be an officer but was a washout) was responding to a request for information from Frank Field, chairman of the Commons work and pensions committee.
Mr Field had asked what data the DWP collects on the deaths of benefit claimants, in an attempt to find out whether there is any link between the work capability assessment (WCA) – carried out on claimants of Employment and Support Allowance and the Personal Independent Payment – and suicide, self-harm and mental ill-health.
The issue had been raised in research by Oxford University and Liverpool University entitled First Do No Harm.
This Blog reported on that document’s findings here – and you would be well-advised to refresh your memory of that article before you see the Secretary-in-a-State’s comments.
You should also read Vox Political‘s follow-up article in which a response from the Department for Work and Pensions – attempting to deny the research findings – is comprehensively disproved.
Iain Duncan Smith started writing his letter without a leg to stand on. Here it is – read it for yourself and see if you have any sympathy for his attitude.
Note that he admits the DWP has a “duty of care” to benefit claimants. It has taken years to get him to admit this and it will be very important if – for example – corporate manslaughter charges arise in the future.
Where he says the report’s authors admitted there was no evidence of a “causal link” between the WCA and suicide, he is of course being disingenuous. Iain Duncan Smith would not be satisfied with any evidence other than coroners’ findings that all 590 suicides mentioned by the report were attributed by the perpetrators to the work capability assessment. That was never going to happen.
But the report did examine other causes and eliminated them. While it states there is no direct evidence of a causal link between the WCA and suicide, the deaths certainly aren’t linked to any other cause.
Note also, Duncan Smith’s claim that the lack of a causal link was not reported in the media is not true.
The comment that there is no evidence the people with mental health problems underwent a WCA is covered in This Blog’s follow-up article, but for clarity I’ll repeat it here:
“Jonathan Portes of the National Institute for Economic and Social Research (NIESR) told This Writer that… 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.”
And that is precisely what they did.
Duncan Smith’s assertion that being sent back to work can “promote and protect health, and also reverse the harmful effects of long-term unemployment or prolonged sickness absence” is only accurate if the person doing the work is healthy enough for it – and, by definition, may not be applied to those whose mental ill-health has driven them to suicide.
Inaccurate WCA findings that claimants are “fit for work” or may be “fit for work” within a year of their assessment also mean that many ESA claimants will be sent back into the job market before they are healthy enough. In these cases, there can only be one result: Being sent back to work will make their health worse.
Of course it will; there is a reason they stopped working and claimed ESA in the first place. If that reason still applies, then sending them back to work can only have one result.
Anyone wanting to suggest that a large number of ESA claimants are committing fraud in order to avoid work should remind themselves of the facts: While a TUC survey has shown people think 27 per cent of the ‘welfare’ budget is claimed fraudulently, the government’s own figure is just 0.7 per cent. For ESA claimants it reduces even further, to 0.4 per cent. That’s one person out of 250, rather than roughly one in four – a big difference, especially when one considers the effect on their health of sending an ill person back to work prematurely, as Iain Duncan Smith appears to be advocating.
And then there is this:
The handwriting is appalling so This Writer will try to translate: “NB: There are some out there in the media and social media who have used raw figures to accuse the govt of outrageous [sic] action. I would hope that the committee would not seek to follow suit. I note that having introduced the ESA and the WCA, the Labour Party now seeks to attack it as though they had nothing to do with it. Surely the committee should seek to recognise the good intent of those engaged in this difficult area.”
Those engaged in this area have no good intent whatsoever – let’s get that clear from the start. Their intentions are well-covered in previous articles on This Blog, which I will forward to Frank Field and his committee.
As for “some out there in the media and social media who… accuse the government of outrageous action” – I think he means me.
How nice to have official recognition and how clever of him to describe his own behaviour accurately.
Outrageous action? That’s exactly right.
Iain Duncan Smith’s department practises ‘chequebook euthanasia’ – WCA assessors use psychological ‘nudge’ techniques to push the mentally-ill towards suicide in order to reduce the “burden” on society caused by these “useless eaters”.
Even Frank Field – chairman of the work and pensions committee who contacted Iain Duncan Smith over the Oxford University and Liverpool University allegations – has raised concerns about this behaviour:
It is outrageous.
Even more outrageous is the fact that Iain Duncan Smith is trying to deny it.
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