Iain Duncan Smith has written to the Work and Pensions Committee, responding to questions about the possible correlation between benefit assessments and the suicide of claimants.
The letter, addressed to the Committee chair Frank Field MP, features a barely legible hand-written footnote, warning against listening to those “in the media and on social media” who “accuse the Government of outrageous actions.”
The Work and Pensions Secretary writes: “There are some out there in the media and social media who have used ONS [Office for National Statistics] figures to accuse the govt of outrageous actions.
“I would hope that the committee would not seek to follow suit. I [illegible] [note?] that having introduced ESA and the WLA, the Labour Party now seeks to attack it as though they had nothing to do with it.
“Surely the committee should seek to recognise the good intent of those engaged in this difficult area.”
The correlation between the work capability assessment and suicide was established by academic researchers, not by journalists or social media commentators.
Iain Duncan Smith will probably be accusing the United Nations (UN) of failing to see the government’s “good intent”, when its inquiry into “grave and systematic violations” of the rights of disabled people in the UK concludes.
Despite the fact that we are the first country to face such an inquiry, and given that the UN investigate only when there is evidence of grave and systematic violations of human rights, the prime minister has already dismissed the significance of the inquiry, ludicrously claiming “it may not be all it’s cracked up to be.”
It’s particularly noteworthy that when it comes to government claims, the same methodological rigor that they advocate for others isn’t applied. Indeed, many policies have clearly been directed by ideology and traditional Tory prejudices, rather than valid research and empirical evidence.
The fact that no cumulative impact assessment has been carried out in regard to welfare “reforms”, indicates that the government is not interested in accountability and examining the potential negative outcomes of policy-making.
Policies are supposed to be about meeting public needs, and not about inflicting Conservative dogma and old prejudices in the form of financial punishment on protected social groups
The Government often claim that any research revealing negative social consequences arising from their draconian policies, which they don’t like to be made public, “doesn’t establish a causal link.”
Recently there has been a persistent, aggressive and flat denial that there is any “causal link” between the increased use of food banks and welfare cuts, benefit sanctions and extreme hardship, and the Work Capability Assessment and an increase in numbers of premature deaths and suicides, to name but a few.
The government are referring to a scientific maxim: “Correlation doesn’t imply causality.” The tobacco industry made exactly the same claim about the established link between lung cancer and smoking.
It is completely inaccurate to say that correlation doesn’t imply causation – it quite often does. Determining whether there is an actual cause and effect relationship requires further investigation. This is something the government has persistently refused to do.