Monday, 9 May 2011

Jobcentres on Suicide Alert

After a week of welcome distraction provided by the local elections, it's with a heavy heart that I return to the car-crash-horror of sickness and disability benefit reform.

The Guardian today, are running a story claiming that jobcentre staff have been issued with 6-point guidelines on how to deal with suicide threats as the sickness and disability benefit squeeze continues to be rolled out across the country.

A concerned senior jobcentre employee with over 20 years experience sent the internal document to the Guardian with a covering letter explaining that:

"Absolutely nobody has ever seen this guidance before, leading staff to believe it has been put together ahead of the incapacity benefit and disability living allowance cuts"

According to the Guardian:

"Another jobcentre adviser said: "People have been coming off sickness benefits and thrown onto jobseekers allowance. It's problematic because some of the customers are clearly not fit to work, and they are clearly very distressed."

I wrote about the issue of suicide on my blog some time ago. Many campaigners have been worried for some time at the regularity and seriousness of comments made about planned suicide attempts. It is a terribly sensitive area and one that should be dealt with without a trace of scaremongering. However, we read very matter-of-fact, detailed plans from supporters who state that they are considering taking their own lives on a daily basis and our concern has grown by the week.

As I researched the issue, I found that, in fact, the government keep no records at all on how many people from this most vulnerable of groups already commit suicide. Those living in pain or depression, exhaustion or despair clearly face heavier burdens than more able citizens. Any scheme that aims to radically reduce the number of people receiving some kind of state support to this group ought surely to know what risk there is of increasing the chance of suicide?

Studies from America and charity groups seem to indicate that in fact, this group is at least 4 times more likely to commit suicide than healthy or non-disabled people with the figure rising to 8 times more likely if the condition involves symptoms such as severe head pain or mental illness. Remember, this is before the enormous pressure currently being heaped on claimants has even come into effect.

A few weeks ago, a fellow campaigner called me in tears. She'd received yet another email from a supporter detailing very clear plans to take their own life. Not only had the person made their mind up, but they knew exactly what they intended to do. The person stated that they would take her own life in a very public place. Their only hope left was that by doing so it would stop our country from sleep-walking into this misguided disaster. The sender of the email hoped that people would wake up to what was going on and even appealed for others to join them.

To those who say it is insensitive to discuss this, I say : Read my emails for a week or two. Read the comments left on my blog and others. If people are willing to discuss ending their own lives so clearly on public forums, it is our duty to listen and act.

If the article in the Guardian is true, then our government must be perfectly aware that benefit changes are causing such distress that people are thinking of taking their own lives - some are already doing so.

The shame we should all feel must make us act. Now. Before it is too late.

**If anyone needs any support at all over these issues or simply needs to talk things through, please contact


  1. I don't think this government can be unaware, but I think they think that anyone who isn't fully supporting themselves, even because of illness, it's somehow their own fault - something they feel no sympathy for. If someone succeeds in committing suicide, it's one less claiming benefit. If they fail, they're just mad and will be sectioned.

  2. Cameron would rather have his happiness index..the feel good factor..not live with the real issues that affect people day to coming fromn someone who is rich and who will clearly never have to worry about money. This is an issue that will affect thousands and we have to face the fact that for all those we know who abuse the system there are those in genuine need and despair who are getting nothing like the help they need to live an even semi "normal"life due to illness of disability. I do sometimes feel sorry for some of the jobcentre staff who are purely following orders...woe betide any who have an opinion of their own. I fear things will get much worse before they get better.

  3. Christopher Morris9 May 2011 at 11:51

    I am horrified at the ConDem cynicism which this shows. I worked for 15 years in the hospital service and 23 years in Social Services, and am acutely aware of the statistic that 1 in 4 of us wil at some time in our lives suffer from some form of mental illness. Act now, Labour HQ

  4. I thought of becoming a martyr to it all but I want to urge anyone, anyone thinking the same thing not to do it; not to take their lives. It won't change a thing. Last year a disabled woman sent a letter asking the local paper to investigate her death as she'd spent three years battling to be rehoused, and then, she died. Suicide was ruled out, no cause of death was found.
    Did any of you hear about it? Of course you didn't. Front page of the local paper and no national took it.
    Not long after a man climbed to the 8th floor of the block I was living in and jumped off and then the local paper published a report that suicides had increased on the year before.
    The best way to fight this coalition is precisely to stay alive, not be beaten by it. It's hard to hope but hope is what you have to hang on to.
    Thanks Sue for this post and your articulate and powerful advocacy.

  5. The stress of having the DWP sword hanging over my head and being dehumanised in the media everyday has probably taken 20 years of my life.

  6. When I think about a future stuck on ever decreasing Job Seekers allowance, stuck in a wild crime riven slum alone, being hassled by jobcentre staff constantly looking for an excuse to sanction me to meet their targets, and being constantly hassled to find a non-existent job where no employer would touch me with a bargepole anyway, with no hope for a better future, I feel like committing suicide too.

    Living under this kind of pressure, stress and misery I probably wont last much longer anyway.

  7. GO on the Tory FB site, it's like cult brainwashing, I told them I lived in a council flat, I was told I was a benefit scrounger, I told them I work 48hrs a week, been with the same firm for 16 yrs, have never claimed benefits , and I didn't know anyone who did, I got a 1 word comment back , bollocks, they clearly didn't believe me, they are all convinced that everyone is on benefits except them

  8. You forgot to say how the Conservative and Lib Dem government has cut petrol tax.

  9. I told them I was going to kill myself once(or twice),then I told them I wanted to shoot the politicians.They don't know how to deal with me now,I usually get signed with no problems.

  10. I think David Cameron should be arrested by the police for crimes against the vulnerable this should also include the staff at the job centre for being an Accomplice as they know what there are doing they can step away from this madness and if they chose to follow guidelines that bring about the premature death of someone then they should be found guilty and charged with manslaughter

    The law generally differentiates between levels of criminal culpability based on the mens rea, or state of mind. This is particularly true within the law of homicide, where murder requires either the intent to kill – a state of mind called malice, or malice aforethought – or the knowledge that one's actions are likely to result in death; manslaughter, on the other hand, requires a lack of any prior intention to kill or create a deadly situation.

    I was only half way reading that article and was physically sick such is the horror of it all

  11. On a further note the police are bound to take action on the government once they hear of what's going on I'm sure

    They do have the power to intervene that i do know and i would suggest they do as it is a public area the job centre and any form of abuse that is likely to cause injury or harm to anyone is an arrestable offence

    However the police cant get involved if it's from your home i do know that for certain

  12. The way this Coalition is treating the country's most vulnerable is a shame on a supposedly civilised society. Cameron will be defined on how he allowed this country to sink to depriving it's most needy to the point of letting them die.

  13. This is an international dilemma. Here in South Australia we have just managed to motivate an inquiry into the health commission, but I fear many dollars spent with no 'real' results. What do you think the answers are?

  14. But would Ed Miliband and the Labour Party do ANYTHING about these brutalities if they had the chance? As far as I can see EVERY political party is committed to forcing the sick and disabled to pick up their beds and walk - to work. Does anybody really believe that Labour, if one day it forms a majority government, would reverse or roll back ANY of these Tory brutalities?

  15. In our local paper there were a lot of Suicides reported
    mainly men
    following the closure of the coal mining industry.
    I wonder where the statitics are and what they tell us

  16. Well I can't lie, It has hit a very personal note with me. I too have contemplated something silly, but haven't gone ahead with it thinking about the fall out i would leave behind. I have suffetred quite severe depression and i have to say the closest i ever came to it was when I was sent to those poverty pimps A4E. they had no practical help for me infact they were and hinderance

  17. I notice people commenting that people who try to commit suicide and fail "will be sectioned". Where I live (The Isle Of Wight) our local mental hospital only has about 12 beds, people regularly commit suicide here, in fact the suicide rate is 50% higher than the rest of the south east of England.
    My friend attempted to take her own life about 2 years ago and was sectioned, she had been there about 7 days and was detoxing from alcohol when they sent her back home, she went straight back to drinking. Her carer who took her to all her appointments and helped her in many ways (unpaid) died and she found him. The day after he died I rang our local mental hospital and informed them I feared she was suicidal, the nurse sounded impatient and did not even suggest she come in for psychiatric assessment. She never received any counselling and 7 month later she hung herself successfully. This kind of thing happens all the time. So as you can see there is very little support for suicidal people, we won't "get sectioned" we'll just be left to die. It's a different story if you have a buzz word mental illness like "Bipolar disorder", or "schizophrenia", then they fall over themselves to help you. But plain old anxiety based depression and suicidal thoughts/behavior goes untreated all the time.

  18. [QUOTE]Anonymous said...

    But would Ed Miliband and the Labour Party do ANYTHING about these brutalities if they had the chance? As far as I can see EVERY political party is committed to forcing the sick and disabled to pick up their beds and walk - to work. Does anybody really believe that Labour, if one day it forms a majority government, would reverse or roll back ANY of these Tory brutalities?[/QUOTE]

    They wont labour put us on this path and was causing a lot of pain that was not being reported for the reason it wasn't being broadcast it was only during the election when Gordon brown was on a phone in program that someone called in with only one month to live saying his benefit had been stopped as he had found himself fit for work as the DWP when they were round his house he offered to make them a cup of tea and by doing that he had just declared himself fit for work despite the fact he has only a month to live

    Many people have died under labour make no mistake about that but the conservatives will do far worse with deaths over the next 3 years running into thousands especially if the mail and sun newspapers get their way

  19. the past year I have seen my life chipped away to a point of just existing. I am fully blind, with a bad heart and lungs, can only stand for no more than five minutes and the use of only one arm. until I lost my sight a few years ago through injury I worked my socks off everyday. now.... doing the slightest task is painful and slow. i was moved into a new place 2 years ago away from friends so now I have not seen anyone for 2 years (I have no family) my only company are my two cats and only human contact I have is the delivery driver once a month for my shopping. my diet consists of a bowl of porridge for breakfast and a tin of soup split for lunch and dinner filled out with slices of bread. i cannot leave my home as I dont know how to navigate with my cane and have no one to guide me but then I cant walk anyways. i cant see my doctor as they dont do house calls unless your very ill. all i hear now is how i am a scrounger, a parasite and free loader. I tried to get help but i have been told my condition doesnt put me at risk so i dont qualify.i am just invisible. i dont exist in this society. i just exist in my four walls. i know when my benefits will be re assesed i will have them stopped as i am unable to leave my house to attend the assessments and i do not know anyone who will help me. i have become used to living in isolation. but even my voice now croaks from lack of use talking to someone. my only luxury is this talking computer but i cant interact online as i get called a fake (how can someone blind use a computer) or a scrounger or fantasist because people dont live like this. i havent chosen to live like this - i have been made to. i dont see people because i am blind but people dont see me cos I am seen as nothing in society. where ever you turn to for help there is always something that makes you ineligible for help so i have given up. i know my post will either be deleted or attacked but i just wanted to tell someone how my life is now and maybe someone is listening. thank you.

  20. this coming winter scares me. the money i pay to Npower is only enough to keep both gas and electric running. with all the increases i cant afford to turn on the heating so i know my heart and lungs will get worse. they already are with the changing season. the place they moved me into 2 years ago - i now risk loosing it because i have a box room which was meant to be for an over night carer. i was told cuts mean i cannot have an over night carer and the box room means i will be classed as over occupancy. so i will b moved somewhere else again but it wont matter as i dont know anyone here so i will be in the same position in another strange place. but my fear is moving into a smaller place might mean loosing my cats. they are the only reason i have to get up. they keep me going. not seeing another human being for 2 years is only made survivable because i have my cats to interact with and now i face loosing them. sometimes i am scared in winter the room is so cold i wont wake up and as each winter gets worse it becomes more of a reality but this year i find myself not scared of that thought. if a person has to go through life with no contact with anyone and all they read is how they are despised and vilified even by the press and the government what else am i to think except they are right? you tell someone something enough times they begin to believe it. that is all i hear of our PM and the rest of the government and the public also now use the same wording and hatred towards you because you are different or need extra help.i am only in my 30's and this is all i see for myself now. i just want someone to tell me what have i done to be hated this way, to be despised so much. i will be glad when my time comes. I apologize for the long two posts - i just wanted to scream to let someone know I am here but know no-one will hear me and this was the only other thing i could think of.

  21. Diagnosed with aspergers syndrome and dyspraxia at age 42, after twenty unsuccessful years in industry, including HM Armed Forces, I am alas public enemy number one, a benefit scrounger and what the gubbermint and the public via the sensationalising media are doing is hastening the end of my life, because it has come to that. At the end of each day I complete my own suicide score and today, I sit at level eight out of ten levels, it has been worse, and sometimes better and I have come dangerously close too many times, when it comes to the time, which it will, I must go, I will, because as it is my right to live, it is also my right to die !

    When I do go, the only satisfaction I will have is I will be depriving this toilet of a government of what it wants, that being my life as a tax generator, nothing more.

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  23. I believe also that the police or even the queen needs to get onto this discussion, there's not many options for people who would like to work certain hours. I bet if the government was to put out a lot of 9-5 jobs the unemployment figures would decrease rapidly. we are dictated to by what hours we should work. Sort out society and people will feel safer make sure buses are running properly if you want people to work late. The job centre staff and a4e definitely use bullying tactics with threats to stop money. Anything you say goes in one ear and out the other your never believed even when you have proof there still sceptical and talk to you like you haven't. Why not create more home jobs not everyone wants to be out in society with knife crime and guns etc. People who would be claiming incapacity could work from home, which would save fuel the environment and resources and the government would benefit. I suffer with depression 90% of the time and would love to be able to pick my hours say 9-5 but the governments greedy soon we will be working 24 hours till we are 150

  24. i have not claimed any benefits for years my business collapsed in 2008 - 2009 i have been hiding from the csa and tax authorities i am relying on my friends and relatives to support me. i have lost my house the fear of the csa has caused me to plunge into depression its so bad that my hair is faling out ive lost nearly 50% of my hair. i was a musicteacher before the recession started my whole life has come apart i am so ill i think of killing myself all the time. its as a direct result of the governments actions and the way the system is set up. its as if they have made it impossible to live life normally or legally as if they want us dead i really believe that.
    Rob white march cambs. i wont apply for benfits theres no\point they ill just say im scrounging. the balifs come tomorrow fron the csa theyve already took my house now they are trying to get my belongings i just cant go on