Yesterday’s Guardian article by Zoe Williams about evidence-free government is strangely muted about the main headline-grabber: The fact that she is writing about policies that kill.
“Recently, Dame Anne Begg had some questions for the employment minister, Esther McVey, on the Welfare Reform Act of 2012,” the article states.
“She wanted to know about cuts to benefits, having carefully gathered evidence from charities and food banks in advance. ‘Minimum JSA [jobseeker’s allowance] sanction,’ she began, ‘went from two weeks to four weeks and the maximum went from six months to three years. These are quite sizeable lengths of time, so what evidence did you have on the likely impact on claimants that these extended sanction periods would have?’
“Were there any reasonable grounds that could be shared with any reasonable person to think this policy would be effective – any attempt to visualise how it would look?… There were not. There was a lot of faffing, and some broad and extraneous evidence about sanctions in general. ‘I take it from your failure to answer the question that you did not do any research,’ the chair finally concluded, having grilled McVey and the DWP’s Chris Hayes for long enough.”
This is a policy that kills people. We only have to look at the recent record of Ashton-under-Lyne Job Centre to realise that. Remember the man whose Jobseekers Allowance was sanctioned just before Christmas? “Without warm clothes and very little food he fell asleep on the streets and never woke up. He died of hypothermia.”
Jobcentre staff reportedly said they were “only following orders” – the ‘Nuremberg defence’ used by guards in Nazi extermination camps.
Dame Anne Begg knew about this because Yr Obdt Srvt had written to inform her.
Then – again, just before Christmas – another claimant at Ashton-under-Lyne died. This one was driven to suicide after being sanctioned, and was found hanged.
That’s two, within two weeks – claiming at just one Jobcentre. Working on the law of averages, that gives us 52 deaths per Jobcentre per year, and with 800 Jobcentres in the country our average number of deaths per year would be 41,600.
Both of these claimants had mental health problems but had been dumped off incapacity benefits and onto JSA. Clearly they had failed their Work Capability Assessments – but then, we all know that these are phony tests based on a long-ago-debunked assessment system.
Again, there was no evidence to show the WCA was a valid assessment procedure. Blame for its use falls at Labour’s door (it was introduced in 2008, under a Labour government) – although it should be recognised that Labour soon realised its mistake and would have changed the system if the Conservative-led Coalition had not sidled into office in 2010.
The Tories introduced changes that made the assessment much harder, and it is from the introduction of those changes that the Employment and Support Allowance deaths really started to pile up (the article referenced suggests 73 deaths a week, but the total number was in fact more than 220 – deaths from the support group were included after it was pointed out that random reassessment of people in this group created stress that could easily lead to death).
Right: 220 deaths per week is 11,440 per year. Add that to the 41,600 we already have and our rolling total is 53,040 deaths per year – and remember this is only an extremely rough average to demonstrate the possible extent of the problem. The ESA death figure is from 2011 and may have increased hugely since then – we don’t know because the DWP is hiding the figures from us.
To cut a long story short, we could be looking at as many as 100,000 deaths and more, in the benefit system alone. This carnage, driven by Coalition Government policy, would be the largest genocide of the British people by their government in history, beating even the Harrowing of the North in 1070.
Samuel Miller, who has spent more years researching the fatal effects of evidenceless DWP policy than this writer, had this to say about it yesterday: “There exist only a few studies on the effectiveness of sanctions in social welfare systems, yet that did not deter the DWP from implementing one of the harshest sanctions regimes of all OECD countries.
“Moreover, the Department failed to conduct a ‘real world’ impact assessment of the effect of extended sanctions on claimants. So when the minimum JSA sanction went from two weeks to four weeks and the maximum went from six months to three years, people died as a result.”
Last week, Iain Duncan Smith was campaigning for a Tory government to be elected in 2015. In the face of all the misery and death for which he should be held directly accountable, this creature squelched out of his lair and tried to convince you that he has saved the country £50 billion – because the number of benefit claimants is falling. Even this was a lie.
The Tory insistence on evidenceless policy means that, if a Conservative government is elected in May, the deaths will continue. Every one of the thousands who have died already was some mother’s son or daughter, somebody’s brother, niece, cousin; somebody’s friend or relative.
Maybe somebody close to you will be targeted after May – how would you feel about that?
Maybe it will be you. By then, it will be too late to do anything about it.
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