14 December 2017
What: New analysis of NHS statistics shows that in 2007 – a year before the introduction of the WCA – 21 per cent of incapacity benefit (IB) claimants told researchers they had attempted suicide at some point in their lives. The following year, IB began to be replaced by ESA, with eligibility tested by the WCA. By 2014, more than 43 per cent of claimants were saying they had attempted suicide. One leading psychologist described the figures as showing “the greatest increase in suicide rates for any population that I can recall in the literature”. Over the same period, the number of adults who were questioned for the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (APMS) who were not claiming IB (in 2007) or ESA (in 2014) and reported a suicide attempt remained statistically stable (6.0 per cent in 2007 against 6.7 per cent in 2014). The figures were calculated for DNS by Sally McManus, who leads research on the survey for the independent social research institute NatCen, on behalf of NHS Digital.
Why significant: The figures do not prove that the introduction of WCA and ESA caused a doubling of suicide attempts among claimants as the two populations (IB claimants and ESA claimants) may have been different. But they certainly raised further and serious concerns about the impact of the introduction of ESA and the WCA.