It has almost become a fact that the Work Capacity Assessment is linked to suicides and other deaths. A recent piece of academic research claimed that in total, the assessment has claimed 590 suicihdes. However, I would like to suggest the truth is very different.
In exploring the recent research, the National figure of 590 came from just 6 suicides within the sample size. These 6 were guessed to be WCA related because that was the number in the sample above the national average. When you understand left wing disabled activists were consulted in the design of the research, you can understand why the assumptions and conclusions were made.
Can WCA be linked to stress and therefore suicides? Absolutely, but it can also be linked to 100s of other reasons from work to family pressures. Those left behind from suicide victims can spend years trying to understand why they did it without finding answers. The ‘automatic’ link with WCA is symbolic to the bigotry and assumptions that fear the inclusion of dysabled people, which is institutional. This has to be taken into consideration when a coroner rules a suicide is WCA related, an easy answer for a grieving family to accept.
When activists like John Pring of Disability News Service spearheads hostile awareness raising in blaming WCA for suicides, my question to them is what is their end game? I am sure each claimant will find the test stressful for very different reasons. This means any kind of redesigning the test will be as useful as rearranging deck chairs on the sinking Titanic since it will never please everyone!
This leaves 2 options. The first is the one I woukd prefer and that is stress embracement. There are difficult things we all have to do in life and it is about being supported to do them. This could include advocacy, coaching people and supporting people to have a positive attitude, moving them from being a passive victim and towards being an active partner in services.
The second option is the one I fear John Pring and others are heading towards, which is stress evasion. This means that their solution to the alleged suicides is to automatically not assess people who appear stressed, presumingly automatically ruling them indefinitely unfit for work and therefore society.
It is a crowd pleasing idea but the long term consequences are deeply worrying. If stress suddenly becomes more than an issue or illness, as it is now, into something we have a human right not to experience, where will it end? Mortgage applications? Exams? Blood tests? Weddings?
There are only 2 ways we are currently guaranteed someone will not experience stress. The first is to put them in a drug-induced coma, and the second is to end their lives since living is by default stressful. If we now link this back into the institutional bigotry and assumptions that exist in terms of dysabled people, we can see how John Pring’s campaign can be used to argue for exclusion and eugenics, making it a very dangerous game to be playing.
No one should be using anyone’s suicide for cheap political point scoring, and I find those who do cruel and immoral. No suicide can be blamed on one factor and we can not ask DWP to take over from the NHS in terms of assessing and treating mental distress, as John Pring and others are demanding.
We need to support people to embrace and overcome stress, not avoid it, as the only way forward.