‘Staggering’ esa suicide figures prompt calls for inquiry and prosecution of ministers nanoxia deep silence 120mm pwm ultra quiet pc fan

The new analysis of NHS statistics, being published for the first time by Disability News Service (DNS), shows that in 2007 – a year before the introduction of the much-criticised work capability assessment (WCA) – 21 per cent of incapacity benefit (IB) claimants told researchers they had attempted suicide at some point in their lives.

But by 2014, following four years of social security reforms under the new coalition government, and austerity-related cuts to disability benefits and services – and six years of the WCA – more than 43 per cent of claimants were saying they had attempted suicide.

The figures therefore strongly suggest that government cuts and reforms, and particularly the introduction of the WCA, have had a serious, detrimental – and sometimes fatal – effect on the mental health of a generation of claimants of out-of-work disability benefits.


Two weeks ago, DNS reported on figures from the 2014 APMS which showed that 43.2 per cent of ESA claimants – and as high as 47.1 per cent of female ESA claimants – had attempted suicide at some point in their lives, compared with 6.7 per cent of the general adult population.

Disabled campaigners said then that they feared the 2014 figures demonstrated the impact of years of austerity-related cuts to the NHS, social care and social security budgets, the demonisation of ESA claimants, and the increased use of benefit sanctions.

They also suggested that the figures showed the impact of the WCA, which since its introduction in 2008 has increasingly been associated with relapses, anxiety and distress among those with long-term health conditions, including mental health conditions, and the loss of many lives.

DNS therefore asked Sally McManus, who leads research on the survey* – on behalf of NHS Digital – for the independent social research institute NatCen, to calculate the figures on attempted suicides for those IB claimants who were surveyed in 2007.

McManus said that, although the figures did not demonstrate what had caused the rates of attempted suicides to rise so dramatically over the seven years for those on IB/ESA, they did show that the “rates of attempted suicide have clearly increased among people of working age in receipt of a disability-related benefit”.

DNS also reports this week ( see separate story) that, despite being aware of the startling figures from the 2014 survey, which were published in September 2016, the government has refused to explain why it made no attempt to prioritise ESA claimants as a high-risk group for suicide in its latest suicide prevention strategy, which was published in January 2017.

The strongest evidence until now that there was a link between the WCA and an increase in mental distress came in November 2015, when public health experts from the Universities of Liverpool and Oxford showed in a study that, for every 10,000 IB claimants in England who were reassessed for ESA between 2010 and 2013, there were an additional six suicides, 2,700 cases of self-reported mental health problems, and an increase of more than 7,000 in the number of anti-depressants prescribed.

In all, across England as a whole, the reassessment process from 2010 to 2013 was “associated with” an extra 590 suicides, 279,000 additional cases of self-reported mental health problems, and the prescribing of a further 725,000 anti-depressants.

Disabled activists, who have spent years highlighting serious concerns about the impact of the WCA, have told DNS this week that ministers must now be held accountable for the damage they have caused and for repeatedly covering up links between the WCA and suicides.

John McArdle, co-founder of Black Triangle, said: “These latest figures irrefutably confirm what Black Triangle has argued since the inception of our campaign in June 2010, following the death of our friend Paul Reekie who took his own life following a DWP work capability assessment.

Dr Jay Watts, a consultant clinical psychologist and member of the campaigning Alliance for Counselling and Psychotherapy, who first brought the 2014 figures to the attention of DNS, said: “The change in suicide rates these figures show is just staggering.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman refused to say if the minister for disabled people, Sarah Newton, agreed that the WCA and the government’s austerity-related ESA policies had had a significant negative impact on the mental health of ESA claimants, or whether she would launch an inquiry into the links.

* McManus said the survey was the government’s “primary source of information about the extent of mental illness in the population, and whether it’s going up or down over time” and is the “longest-standing mental health survey in the world to use consistent methods over time”. anxiety attack test Every seven years since the early 1990s, a large random sample of the general population is invited to take part. anxiety meaning in hindi symptoms In the latest survey, about 7,500 people were interviewed in their own homes, with each interview taking about an hour and a half to complete. severe anxiety attack what to do Questions include whether they have ever thought about suicide, made a suicide attempt, or self-harmed in some other way.