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effects is, after all, more clearly defined than the one between the drug isotretinoin and suicide, and the drug was withdrawn in the US and some European Member States.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