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Jackie Doyle-Price: The new minister for suicide prevention supported all the policies that have pushed people to take their own lives – and joked about suicide as well. Is that what the Tories think this issue is – a joke?

It was an easy mistake to make. When I heard the Conservative government had appointed a minister for suicide prevention I thought, “Does this mean they’re finally accepting responsibility?”

Alas, I was mistaken.

But you only have to look back over the last six years of Vox Political‘s output to see the Tory record, going back to my report on the Bedroom Tax-related death of Stephanie Bottrill. Her inquest found that stress and pressure placed on her by the Conservative-led government of the day contributed to her suicide.

You would also be well-advised to revist my article about ‘chequebook euthanasia’ – the idea that the Conservative government consciously drives benefit claimants – especially people with long-term illnesses and disabilities – to suicide in a way that means they can then deny any connection with the death.

We have seen such denials many times in recent years, embodied in the now-standard claim that “correlation does not equal causation” and “suicide is complicated; there are many possible causes”.

Sure, correlation does not necessarily equal causation. However, when half of all the women who have ever taken the Tory government’s Work Capability Assessment have attempted suicide – as The Independent has told us – I think it’s safe to say Conservative policies push people towards it.

But the announcement of Jackie Doyle-Price’s appointment to the new role said only that she would “help tackle the stigma” associated with suicide. And the only initiative announced was support in schools.

And her commitment to the role was instantly called into question when it was revealed that Ms Doyle-Price has consistently voted for the cuts in social security benefits that have been blamed for the multitude of suicides and suicide attempts.

Nursing Notes tells us: “According to the website TheyWorkForYou, Ms. Doyle-Price has consistently voted to reduce housing benefit, voted against raising benefits in line with inflation, voted against paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability and voted forty-six times for an overall reduction in spending on welfare benefits.

“Statistics show that those with long-term physical or mental health issues are significantly more likely to be dependent on the state for assistance with housing and living costs.

“Social isolation, financial and health struggles are thought to be some of the leading risk factors for preventable suicide in the UK.”

The article quotes Vicki Nash, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Mind, who said: “Mind found that half of people with mental health problems have thought about or attempted suicide as a result of social issues such as housing issues, finances, benefit support, and employment. We need a benefits system that is supportive – not one that drives people into poverty.”

Damn straight, Keith.

The revelation that she actually made a joke about suicide makes it even worse.

This Site’s long-time friend and fellow campaigner for the rights of sick and disabled people, Samuel Miller, has raised a few pertinent points on this matter, especially the final one:

Was it? I don’t think so.

I think it was a signal; they appointed the least appropriate person for the job because they think the deaths and attempted deaths of hundreds of thousands of people are nothing but a big joke. They really are that repulsive.

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