Friday, 20 November 2015

The cruelty of WCA shows that Tory leopards never change their spots.

Researchers from Oxford and Liverpool universities have analysed data from five years of the government's Work Capability Assessment (WCA) programme and found that it could be linked to nearly six hundred suicides and a rise in mental health problems.

The WCA was introduced by Labour in 2008 as a way of helping people on sickness benefits back into work, under the coalition government its remit was expanded as part of Iain Duncan Smith's assault on the welfare state.

Out of every 10,000 people subjected to WCA 2700 reported mental health problems and six may have been driven to commit suicide by the experience, there was also a marked rise in the number of people being prescribed anti-depressants.

Tom Holland, campaigns manager for mental health charity MIND told the BBC on Tuesday the report shone a 'light on the damaging impact WCA's can have on peoples mental health.'

Also speaking to the BBC shadow health minister Luciana Berger said it was 'unacceptable to have a system that causes vulnerable people anxiety putting their health at further risk.'

A spokesperson for the Department of Work and Pensions said the report was 'wholly misleading' and that no direct conclusions could be drawn from the evidence presented about cause and effect.

Professor Tom Baguley of Nottingham Trent university, again speaking to the BBC, said the evidence presented in the report went 'beyond merely establishing a correlation but falls short of establishing a causal link.'

He added that the study 'provides evidence that the specific application of this policy increased the suicide rate and outcomes associated with adverse mental health in those people affected.'

I'll leave the academics to argue about the methodology, what it abundantly clear is that someone has been 'misled' over the impact of WCA and it is we the public.

Since 2010 the government has sold us the us the line that it isn't seeking to punish people who are can't work due ill health, it is trying to help them recover their independence and sense of purpose; how wrong can anyone who believed that have been.

Actually you don't need a report stuffed with graphs and statistics to see that the WCA system isn't helping the people it was set up to, in fact it is exposing some of them to mortal harm. Look at your local paper any day of the week and you will come across stories of people who have been hounded mercilessly by a system that refuses to believe, even when it is backed up by medical evidence, that they are unfit to work.

Lets be clear about this, nobody chooses a life on sickness benefits because it is easier than working; it demonstrably isn't, if they're lucky claimants have just enough money to survive and no more. That they have to deal with a suspicious and prejudiced system only serves to make a bad situation even worse.

The government seems to operate in relation to what remains of the welfare state on a moral level handed down by the Victorians. People in what they are careful not to call 'the lower orders', but evidently think of in those terms are fundamentally feckless, if they aren't working its usually because they just don't want to, therefore any benefits they receive should be meagre and the process of claiming them difficult.

Added to this ludicrous prejudice in this instance is another and equally ancient one, that against people with mental health problems. If someone needs a stick to help them walk then even the dimmest blimp in the smoking room can see they might genuinely be too ill to work. Someone with depression say probably doesn't show any outer symptoms and so to those afflicted with smaller than usual minds they can't be ill.

Only, of course, they can; so ill in fact that they are unable to face the struggle of wrestling with the complexities of the benefits system and so it rolls over them like a runaway train. In the worst cases the result can be, as this report shows, suicide.

Since 2005 David Cameron and his cabal have been on a mission to persuade us that the Tories have changed and learnt the value of compassion, policies like this prove that to be a lie. They are still the same elitist, selfish and sometime openly cruel party they have always been; they really do believe there is no such thing as society.

Political leopards are no more likely to change their spots than the ones in the zoo are. That it a terrible thing to find out, as many people are doing to their cost, at the most vulnerable time of your life.

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