Ministers must listen after report highlights up to 590 disabled claimants’ suicides

A University of Liverpool and University of Oxford report in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health which was released yesterday, estimates that up to 590 disabled people may have committed suicide between 2010-13, as a result of more stringent Work Capability Assessments.

I wish I could say the findings from this research come as a surprise. The evidence I have received as a constituency MP, a member of the Work & Pensions Select Committee and now as Shadow Minister for Disabled People has indicated how damaging this Government’s Work Capability Assessment process is to the health and well-being of people who are already vulnerable.

The findings are devastating for the Government. They are damning of the Government’s treatment of disabled people receiving social security support, and in particular of their Work Capability Assessment process.

Doctors and disability rights organisations have repeatedly raised concerns that the Work Capability Assessment has had an adverse effect on the mental health of claimants, and this analysis shows that it is independently associated with an increase in suicides, self-reported mental health problems and antidepressant prescribing. Their calls have gone unheeded by the Government.

But now Ministers must listen. I have been calling for an overhaul of the Work Capability Assessment; this report shows how desperately it is needed. The views and experiences of disabled people have to be right at the heart of that process. Labour wants disabled people to be able to play a central role in both the development and monitoring of this.

With the release of this worrying report, I felt it was necessary to address this issue in Parliament. I asked Mr Speaker how it is best for me to get the Secretary of State to address these appalling affairs by raising a Point of Order in the House of Commons yesterday.

You can read my Point Of Order in full below:

dfsdfsdDebbie Abrahams (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek your guidance. This morning eminent academics published research in a peer-reviewed journal that estimated the mental health effects of the Government’s new work capability assessment process between 2010 and 2013. The research is the first population-level study that looked at more than 1 million work capability reassessments in 149 local authorities in England, and at trends in suicide, self-reported mental health problems, and rates of antidepressant prescription.

The report found that there is independent association of an additional 590 suicides, 280,000 cases of self-reported mental health conditions, and 725,000 antidepressant prescriptions. Concerns about the work capability assessment process and other aspects of the Government’s welfare policy have repeatedly been made in this House. In view of the gravity, and the scale and range of impacts of Government policy on the health of its citizens, I seek your advice, Mr Speaker, on how best to get the Secretary of State to make an early statement on how he intends to address those appalling effects.

You can read the media coverage and my comments about the report in the links provided below:

Iain Duncan Smith’s tougher fit-to-work tests ‘coincide with 590 additional suicides’

Fitness to work tests linked to 590 extra suicides in England say experts

Fit-for-work tests may have taken serious toll on mental health – study

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