Tory minister says it’s ‘shameful’ to claim benefit cuts have driven people to suicide – I don’t know what planet Sarah Newton’s living on to say such terrible lies.
Sarah Newton said claims were ‘unsubstantiated’ and critics ‘deliberately misuse data’ to accuse Tory welfare reforms of driving people to death DID SHE READ THE UN REPORTS AND BENEFIT DEATHS DATA!
- DWP may have to publish details of benefit claimant deaths
- Thousands have died after being found fit for work, DWP figures show
- More than 2,300 died after fit for work assessment – DWP figures
- Theresa May refuses to reveal any details of disabled benefit claimants’ suicides
Speaking in the Commons today, SNP MP Deidre Brock demanded an apology “to those who have taken their own lives as a result of government’s benefit policies”. But Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) minister Ms Newton claimed even if suicide rates were high, there is no evidence they were caused directly by welfare cuts.
To shouts of anger from MPs, she told Ms Brock: “It is [of] deep regret that she has made such appalling and unsubstantiated claims about people committing suicide as a result.
“We in this House, all of us, have a duty to be very mindful of the language used and the evidence we use for making such assertions.
“We are talking about some of the most vulnerable people in society and it is shameful when members in this house deliberately misuse data.”
The NHS’s 2014 Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (APMS) showed 43% of people on sickness benefit Employment and Support Allowance had attempted suicide at some point – compared to 7% of the general population. The figure was far higher than the last APMS in 2007, when 21% of people on ESA’s predecessor Incapacity Benefit had tried suicide.
The 2007 APMS report did not include the figures for benefit claimants. But the National Centre for Social Research, which did the survey, provided the additional analysis after a request last month.
Tory minister Ms Newton admitted the study showed “certain associations” – but said it did not show benefit cuts cause suicide. She told MPs: “The Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Gina Radford, has said the APMS does not show any causal link between being on benefits and suicidal thought or behaviour. “The survey findings indicate certain associations – but they do not indicate causality. “Now you may not want to take my word for it.
“But are you seriously, seriously doubting the word of the deputy chief medical officer?”
Asked for her evidence by the Mirror, Ms Brock’s office sent links to news stories about the APMS, which did not show benefit cuts directly cause suicide (see above). The MP also sent links to several individual cases in which it was claimed benefit changes were a factor in peoples’ deaths.
The cases Ms Brock highlighted included claims that Scottish writer Paul Reekie left two letters about his benefits on his desk in lieu of a suicide note.
She also highlighted Tim Salter, a blind man who took his own life. South Staffordshire coroner Andrew Haigh said of him in 2013: “A major factor in his death was that his benefits had been greatly reduced leaving him almost destitute.”
Previously a committee of MPs in 2015 identified 40 suicides by benefit claimants. But it did not link them directly to benefit changes.
Separate previous research by the DWP showed 2,650 benefit claimants died shortly after being found ‘fit for work’ between December 2011 and February 2014. But these deaths were from all causes and did not specify suicides, if any.
Samaritans guidelines for the reporting of suicide say it is “misleading” to “over-simplify” the supposed causes or ‘triggers’ for a death.
Ms Brock stood by her claim, saying: “I’m disgusted that the Tory Government continues to try to deny that their policies are causing harm to people, so much harm that vulnerable people are taking their own lives.
“We know that the figures among failed benefit claimants are very high, and we know that the DWP has done analysis on the effects of its benefits changes. It’s time we got to see that analysis.”
It came as MPs debated the revelation that all 1.6million claimants of disability benefit PIP will have their case reviewed.
Ministers are launching the exercise after the High Court ruled they should give thousands of people with mental health issues more Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
They expect the £3.7billion change to benefit up to 220,000 people – but must reconsider every single PIP claim to work out who is eligible and who isn’t.
Ms Newton, who emphasised no one will have to endure a new face-to-face assessment, was once again completely unable to say how long the exercise would take.
Ms Brock told her: “I find it shameful and depressing that it took a court case to drag this government back to edge of decency.”
Shadow work and pensions minister Marsha De Cordova added: “This mess is one of the Government’s own making.
“[It] is a clear example to this Government of the dangers of seeking to undermine both the independent judiciary and the House of Commons.”
Labour MP Pat McFadden said the whole system was “broken, inhumane at times and in urgent need of fundamental change”.
Ms Newton also made an embarrassing gaffe by claiming the architect of PIP, Lord Freud, was a Lib Dem – when he was actually a Tory.