Attempted suicides by disability benefit claimants double due to fit-to-work assessments

Attempted suicides among out-of-work disabled people claiming social security have more than doubled since the introduction of fit-to-work assessments in 2008.

NHS statistics have shown that almost half of the people claiming out-of-work disability benefit in England have attempted suicide at some point in their life.

The figures, showing rates of self-harm among claimants of employment and support allowance (ESA), were published by NHS Digital in September 2016, but have according to The Independent, have never been reported by the media.


Although only one in 15 adults (6.7%) in the general population had ever made a suicide attempt, that rose to 43.2% for ESA claimants, and as high as 47.1% for female ESA claimants.

Two-thirds of ESA claimants (66%) had thought of taking their own life at some point, compared to 20.6% in the overall adult population.

The levels could now be even higher, because the survey was carried out three years ago, before a further series of social security cuts and reforms, including new cuts of nearly £30 a week to new claimants placed in the ESA work-related activity group that were implemented in April.

According to new analysis of NHS data from surveys taken in 2007 and 2014, nearly half of people surveyed on out-of-work disability benefits said they had attempted to take their own lives in 2014.

Results from the earlier 2007 survey — taken a year before the controversial work capability assessment (WCA) test began — show 21% of incapacity benefit claimants had attempted suicide, meaning the number more than doubled in seven years.


In response to the figures, Dr Jay Watts, a consultant clinical psychologist and member of the campaigning Alliance for Counselling and Psychotherapy, commented: “These results are staggering. It is difficult to overemphasise how large a jump in rates of attempted suicide this is. I cannot think of a greater jump in rates in any population.

“If the Government has any real interest in suicide prevention, benefits reform must be the immediate priority. The UN has condoned the government’s treatment of disabled people as contrary to their human rights.

“The shame, guilt, anxiety and paranoia the current system provokes is a national scandal, that should be headline news. Making the workless feel worthless, and under-serving of support, has provoked a mental health emergency.”

Disability groups and charities said that disabled people are made “incredibly stressed and anxious” — resulting in suicidal thoughts among other problems — by the capability tests, adding that poor-quality assessments often lead to incorrect decisions.

“It is nothing short of harassment and hounding people into further and deeper despair and depression. The WCA needs to be completely scrapped as it can’t be reformed as previous tinkering with it has shown and is deeply flawed.”

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Xain Storey

Xain is the co-founder and editor of BroFeed. He spends most of his time researching bioculturalism, building epic fantasy worlds, and wondering why people still trust their governments.

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