To rule out a causal link between benefit assessment and suicide, the DWP must allow independent research – Politics and Insights

Here’s a useful suggestion for Iain Duncan Smith to take forward, if he is serious in his claim that the work capability assessment applied to sickness benefit claimants does not lead to suicide. It was written by fellow blogger Kitty S Jones, nearly three months before the Gentleman Ranker’s now-infamous letter to Frank Field, about which I wrote yesterday(February 11).

It simply points out that, while causation has not been demonstrated between the WCA and suicide, correlation has. In these circumstances it is expected that more intensive scientific research should take place to establish the facts definitively.

But this would require the DWP to collect – and release – the relevant information. This is something that Iain Duncan Smith himself is unwilling to do.

He is the one who is blocking this important research.

But until the DWP collects and releases the figures requested by Dr Benjamin Barr of Liverpool University (among many others), the Conservative Government will be unable to justify its claim that the hated fitness-for-work test does not lead to death.

You see, if we can’t prove it pushes people to kill themselves, Duncan Smith can’t prove it doesn’t.

The Department for Work and Pensions has rejected the study’s findings. A spokesperson said in a statement: “This report is wholly misleading, and the authors themselves caution that no conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect.”

However, the DWP have no grounds for their own claim whatsoever. Whilst correlation isn’t quite the same thing as cause and effect, it often strongly hints at a causal link, and as such, warrants further investigation. It certainly ought to raise concern from the DWP and ministers, regarding the negative impact of policy on many of the UK’s most vulnerable citizens.

The association with the WCA and its adverse effects is, after all, more clearly defined than the one between the drug isotretinoin and suicide, and the drug was withdrawn in the US and some European Member States.

Dr Benjamin Barr, one of the researchers from Liverpool University, said that a causal link was likely: “Whilst we cannot prove from our analysis that this is causal, there are various reasons why this is a likely explanation,” he said.

He agreed that a study looking specifically at people who had undergone a WCA would be more precise, but added that the DWP has not released that information.

Dr Barr said: “If the DWP has data on this they should make it openly available to independent analysis.” He added that the DWP has so far chosen not to run a trial of its own into a link between WCAs and suicides.

The DWP have so far failed to respond coherently, other than with a denial of a “causal” link.

Source: Research finds strong correlation between Work Capability Assessment and suicide – Politics and Insights

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10 thoughts on “To rule out a causal link between benefit assessment and suicide, the DWP must allow independent research – Politics and Insights

  1. Kitty S Jones

    Very good summary Mike. No impact assessment. Withholding crucial data, and then stifling criticism by claiming that anyone else accessing data by another route has somehow conducted some methodological and interpretive error. And Iain Duncan Smith is preaching at experts in research. These are social researchers that don’t invent statistics or produce fake testimonies to cover the diabolical consequences of ideologically driven policy-making, or something of a Napolean complex.

    “I just know I’m right” Duncan Smith knows very well he is wrong. That’s why he can’t cope with legitimate scrutiny of his beliefs, methods, policies and the consequences of his actions, and why he feels he must therefore demonise his critics.

  2. Kitty S Jones

    “The standard process of research and enquiry, scientific or otherwise, doesn’t entail, at any point, a flat political denial that there is any relationship of significance to concern ourselves with, nor does it involve withholding data and a refusal to investigate further.”

    For anyone interested in this theme generally, in social science methodologies and the Conservative’s woeful ineptitude, I wrote this critique last year. Although it’s heavy going, I’ve included a glossary that introduces some major themes and issues in the social sciences more generally, and outlines what stuff means. It’s long, but I haven’t seen a decent critique so far of Tory “research” and felt this was much needed –

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Thanks for the link. I intend to put together a detailed summary of all the reasons Iain Duncan Smith is wrong and send it to Frank Field and the other members of the work and pensions committee, so they have the other side of this from a member of the social media that Duncan Smith has maligned, and this will provide excellent support.

      1. Jarrow

        Don’t get your hopes up, Mike. You can hardly get a cigarette paper between Frank Field and Iain Duncan Smith. Here’s an article about this unholy twinning by fellow blogger Johnny Void.

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        A word of warning to those who are offended by harsh language: Johnny Void uses it – a lot.
        That being said, he usually makes excellent points.

  3. Jonno R

    And he will ignore you even if people stood in rows with a sign round their neck saying “this is better than slow starvation and dispair suffered since my DWP assessment” and set fire to themselves.

  4. Wendy

    Surely with the internet and blogging people write their life experience of what’s affecting them and if they are going through this and feel suicidal surely that’s enough evidence that the wca is not working and files of people are suffering but on internet it not silent any more so get these voices together all the bloggers ang report how it effect you this system while your sick and disabled and low as can be that this is treatment we do not deserve long wait not believed when have full doctor and consultants letters we are not liars we are sick unwell and need help and outmr government want to let us starve and wait and stress kills us all off if all these bloggers report went to court against the dwp the evidence is clear how much pain and suffering they causing so it has to be done to stop here

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Most blogs simply don’t have a large enough readership.
      Even with around half a million hits a month, Vox Political is still relatively small in comparison to the mass media – but much bigger than many other bloggers. That’s one reason I try to help others by publicising their work – but I can’t see everything that’s out there and there wouldn’t be enough time in the world to put it all on these pages.

Comments are closed.