’For 30 years, governments have tried to get disabled people into work by toughening up benefit rules. Part of the motivation has been to cut the welfare bill, but it’s also been framed as an attempt to stop disabled people “languishing” on benefits.
‘But the policy has had tragic consequences, particularly for people with mental illness, who have felt coerced and pressured, as the department for work and pensions has deemed them fit for work. Many – maybe hundreds – have taken their own lives.
‘According to a former chief economist at the DWP, “it’s one of the biggest social policy failures of the last 20 or 30 years. We caused an enormous amount of human suffering. We achieved very little, we didn’t save any money and it probably cost more than it would have if we hadn’t done anything.”
‘In this series, Jolyon Jenkins investigates how the policy came about, starting under the government of John Major, which turned for advice to an American private insurance company that became notorious for unlawfully denying the legitimate claims of policyholders in the US.’
Fit For Work by Jolyon Jenkins
An Off Beat Media production for BBC Radio 4