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It isn’t suicide: it’s murder June 2, 2011

Posted by Phil Groom in Current Affairs, Death, Life, Mental Health.
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Cross-posted from 5 Quid for Life:

BBC News, 01/06/2011: Campaigners warn over incapacity benefit changes

BBC News, 01/06/2011: Campaigners warn over incapacity benefit changes

THE BBC NEWS have now picked up on the risk of suicide by those suffering from mental illness as they face the trauma of changes to the benefits system. Citing a letter published in the Guardian on May 31st from representatives of Mind, Rethink and a number of other mental health organisations, the BBC report notes that some claimants have already taken their own lives in response to the changes: Campaigners warn over incapacity benefit changes.

In the letter, the campaigners state:

We’ve found that the prospect of IB [incapacity benefit] reassessment is causing huge amounts of distress, and tragically there have already been cases where people have taken their own life following problems with changes to their benefits. We are hugely worried that the benefits system is heading in a direction which will put people with mental health problems under even more pressure and scrutiny, at a time when they are already being hit in other areas such as cuts to services.

The very reason 5 Quid for Life exists, of course, is to be there for such people: we are a mental health safety net. But for that net to be effective, we need funds and people need to know that we are here.

If you have already contributed to the fund, blogged, tweeted or written to help spread the word, thank you. The need for 5 Quid for Life remains as vital as when the 200 People to Save Ali Quant campaign was first launched, however — and what I said then remains true: these deaths are not suicide, they’re

murder, death by a thousand cuts from a knife wielded by the UK Government — the very people whose job it is to take care of the poor, the weak, the vulnerable on our behalf as taxpayers.

I now urge all who share these concerns, the concerns expressed in that letter to the Guardian, to raise your voices once again: write to the BBC, write to the Guardian, write to your own MP. Let them know that the risk is real and ask them to stand with us.

Thank you, and thanks in particular to The Madosphere for drawing attention to this and to us already.



1. Ian - June 2, 2011

This is difficult. WHat is the answer? To never change the benefits system? To not properly assess people? These are serious, not rhetorical questions.

To be honest I think much of the blame can be placed at the feet of those who have acted hysterically and made out that genuinely ill people are going to have the benefits taken away. The so-called ‘activists’ who have been scaremongering for the last year about this.

2. Aliquant - June 2, 2011

Hi Ian, I’m going to try to answer a few of your points.
I don’t know anyone who’s scaremongering. I know there are plenty of people spreading hate, plenty of newspapers printing lies and most ordinary people don’t know what to believe. It’s easy to believe the lies in the papers when it’s in there [often front page news] every single day for over a year.
People *are* having their benefits taken away. Terminally ill people found fit to work. People have suicide plans, some have already died.
This isn’t about not being reassessed, everyone understands the importance of retesting and checking people are still eligible. It’s the way the new assessment is being carried out that’s so terrifying for those who have to endure it. Consultant reports ignored. Assessors lying when giving responses, or making them up altogether. Being assessed for mental health problems by a physiotherapist. Being able to do a task once is taken to mean someone can automatically do that task 8 hours a day 5 days a week with no regard to how much effort it took to do it once and how much recovery time will be needed afterwards. People being found fit to work, winning at appeal, then being called in for another reassessment immediately after and the whole thing starts again. Why reassess someone who has *just* been assessed?? How that can not be interpreted as victimisation and harassing ill and disabled people?
The test simply is not fit for purpose [even the person who created the test says so], it doesn’t accurately assess anyone’s ability to work. That’s the problem, that’s what we’re fighting for.
We don’t want them to stop testing us, we just want a fair system where the test actually does what it’s supposed to: assess whether or not someone is fit to work rather than simply be a tool behind which we can find as many people fit to work as possible.
The actual DWP fraud figures and sucessful appeal figures prove this [my apologies I don’t have them to hand right at this moment but I belive they are in the region of 0.5% and 40% respectively, that might not be spot on but it’s not far off].

People aren’t hysterical. They’re scared.

3. Graham Smith - June 2, 2011

Might I disagree with you, Phil?

IMHO it isn’t the Government’s job to care for those unable to work through illness, age or infirmity; that is something that each and every one of us should take personal responsibility for (much in the same way you are doing with 5 quid for life).

A very large part of the problem is that our population has grown sloping shoulders; far too many people see it as “the Government’s job” to provide for those in need. Having said that, you are right to highlight the worrying about some aspects of proposed changes to the benefits system that scaremongering by national newspapers, egged on by certain individuals associated with the Labour Party, has brought about. Surely now is the time for 5 quid for life (and other similar bodies that have come about since Mr Cameron announced the Big Society initiative) to step up to the mark?

4. Ian - June 2, 2011


There have been endless blog articles from before the last general election warning about how this government was going to take away people’s benefits. Hysterical? Absolutely!

Please understand this the right way. If someone is terminally ill, it doesn’t mean they cannot work. Indeed being able to work is probably the best thing for them if they can. I have kidney disease which is getting worse at the moment – I hope I will continue to work until the day I can no longer breathe – it is an essential part of self-determination and individual dignity. In the same way, a good friend of mine has MS – but she is currently running a hand-made toy stall on a market and it is the best medicine she can have.

Hyperbole such as this article (calling it ‘murder’) doesn’t help the debate and is certainly not helping a rational call to change the assessment. If the appeal figures are at 40%, then firstly it shows the appeal system works (than goodness for the rule of law), and secondly it does suggest a need to look at the assessment, I agree. But the political polarisation and lumping press, politicians and others into the ‘evil murdering tory scum’ label isn’t going to achieve that.

Phil Groom - February 18, 2012

Ian, my apologies that it’s taken me so long to reply, and thank you for your observations. I stand by my original assessment, however: when an organisation does something — whether it’s the government implementing changes in the benefits system or a local council appointing a debt collector — in the full knowledge of the vulnerability of those affected by that action, knowing that suicide is one of the likely outcomes of that action, then that organisation must be held responsible when that predictable outcome occurs. In other words, it isn’t suicide, it’s murder.

I sincerely hope that you overcome the debilitating affects of your kidney disease — but seriously, you hope that you continue to work until the day you can no longer breathe? You accuse me of hype and say that in the same breath? Ian, brother, I hope that long before you reach the point of no longer being able to breathe, we as a society will have reached the point of compassion where we absolutely do not expect anyone to work until they drop. You may find fulfilment in your work, and that’s wonderful if you do, but there’s more to life than work: we work to live, not the other way around, the corollary of what Jesus said about the Sabbath; and for many — perhaps most — of us, work is a hundrum experience of doing what we must to earn a crust. No, absolutely, work is not “an essential part of self-determination and individual dignity”, though it can contribute towards those ends.

I say: if someone is terminally ill, set them free — give them the resources to do those things that they’ve dreamt of, to take a holiday with their partner or, if their dream is to run a hand made toy stall, wonderful, resource them to do that. But to tell someone approaching death — who has probably worked all their life, contributing towards a state pension that they’re never going to able to draw — that they must work till they drop is obscene and is an attitude that has no place in a civilised society.

5. Aliquant - June 2, 2011

It’s not hysterical if they are taking away benefits from people who need it.

When I was referring to people found fit to work [i.e. when I mentioned the terminally ill] I was of course referring to people who can’t work as a result of their illness, that goes without saying.
Everyone is individual and assuming that just because one person can do it then everyone can is inaccurate. I’m really pleased your friend is making a success of her stall, that’s fab. But that doesn’t automatically mean everyone with MS can run a toy stall.

There has been discussion about removing the right of appeal altogether. So when that happens there will be no positive note to fall back on, no “at least the appeals system works”. It will just be plain old fashioned fear and extreme poverty and homelessness and death. Also many people simply don’t appeal – personally I’d never be able to go through that process if I had to, it would just be too much to cope with. And I know I’m not alone in that, far from it.

The hysterical ones are the reports of the scroungers in the Daily Mail, the lies printed on a daily basis to brainwash society in believing this is a good thing to do. Printing stories about one person who plays golf and runs a business whilst claiming benefits and implying ALL claimants do that – that’s hysterical and scaremongering, isn’t it?
It’s not hysterical to live in daily fear of that envelope coming through your letterbox knowing it’s the beginning of long months of stress and pain and humiliation and possibly losing income and home at the end of it. I think any rational person would be scared of that!

6. Fuck the Welfare Reform Bill! » Confessions of a Serial Insomniac - February 4, 2012

[…] I have dozens of friends – some online, some offline, some both – that will be directly affected by this. At least one of them has spoken tragically of how she would rather end her life peacefully than suffer the indignity of all that comes with being completely impoverished, as she would likely be if major amendments are made to UK social security. Obviously, I sincerely hope that she doesn’t kill herself, but I can certainly understand the rationale that has led to that line of thinking. In fact, the spectre of the WRB has already caused suicides. Or, should we say, murders? […]

7. It isn’t suicide, it’s murder: Part 2 – Too close to home: Langford man hounded to death over council tax dispute « Phil's Boring Blog - February 18, 2012

[…] Read Part 1: It isn’t suicide, it’s murder […]

8. REPOST: It isn’t suicide, it’s murder: Part 2 – Too close to home: Langford man hounded to death over council tax dispute | Phil's Boring Blog - June 3, 2013

[…] Read Part 1: It isn’t suicide, it’s murder […]

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