Local authorities in England are refusing to use t

first_imgLocal authorities in England are refusing to use their own suicide prevention plans to highlight “shocking” figures that show claimants of out-of-work disability benefits are at a hugely-increased risk of attempting to take their own lives.The figures, published in September 2016 by NHS Digital, show that more than 43 per cent of claimants of employment and support allowance (ESA) had said (when asked in 2014) that they had attempted suicide at some point in their lives.The Department of Health has already refused to explain why it fails to mention these figures or to highlight ESA claimants as a high-risk group in the latest version of its suicide prevention strategy for England.In that publication, health secretary Jeremy Hunt said he wanted to strengthen the national strategy through “better targeting of suicide prevention and help seeking in high risk groups” and by “improving data at national and local level and how this data is used to help take action and target efforts more accurately”.This week, Disability News Service (DNS) has tried to discover if the department – renamed the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) as part of this week’s ministerial reshuffle – has alerted local agencies to the figures.It has found no evidence yet that DHSC has made any attempt to highlight the information with local areas or to advise them to include ESA claimants as a high-risk group in their suicide prevention plans.DNS has contacted six English local authorities to ask them if they were aware that ESA claimants were at such high risk of attempting suicide; if so, whether DHSC had told them about the figures; and whether they believed the information should be highlighted in their own plans, if it was not already.Only one of the six local suicide prevention plans* – for Brighton and Hove – currently even mentions the ESA figures.The other five – covering the London boroughs of Camden and Islington; Southampton; Shropshire; Gateshead; and Kent – make no mention of the figures and fail to warn that ESA claimants are at such high risk of attempting to take their own lives.Only one of these five, Gateshead City Council, has promised to look again at its suicide prevention plan and consider amending it to include the information about ESA claimants, after being contacted by DNS this week.Tory-run Kent County Council said it was “not aware of any national or local figures specifically around ESA claimants” and confirmed that the information had not been passed to the local authority by DHSC.A spokeswoman for the council said: “If more data becomes available on ESA claimants in Kent then we will certainly review it.”But she refused to confirm that this meant that – because they are national statistics – it would not highlight the NHS Digital figures when its suicide prevention steering group reviews its plan.Labour-run Southampton City Council refused to answer questions about the statistics, with a spokesman claiming that council officers “do not have the ESA figures on hand”, even though they were emailed to him by DNS.Conservative-run Shropshire Council said it was “not aware of any additional information being provided by [DHSC]”, although it said the NHS Digital report was “publicly available information”.A spokeswoman refused to say if the council was aware that ESA claimants were at such high risk of attempted suicide and said only that it was “aware that those at higher risk of self-harm and suicide include those who are vulnerable due to economic circumstance and those with chronic illness”.Asked if it would now include the ESA information in its suicide prevention plan, the spokeswoman said the council “will include any additional information should it become available”.She said the strategy would be updated so that it is “explicit about what is meant by ‘vulnerable groups’ so that it is clear that includes people claiming ESA”.But she refused to say if the council would ensure that its strategy would make it clear that ESA claimants are at particularly high risk.A spokeswoman for Labour-run Gateshead council said that relevant documents – including the NHS Digital report – “are published nationally with the expectation that local authorities become aware of them through their information networks”.Gateshead’s strategy was last reviewed in August 2016, a month before the DHSC figures were first published.The council spokeswoman said Gateshead’s plan was “due for review” and the information from the NHS Digital report would now “be reviewed as part of this process and the partnership will decide whether more specific preventative activity would be both suitable and effective for this group”.Labour-led Brighton and Hove City Council has so far refused to answer questions about ESA claimants, although a spokeswoman said: “Deprivation in all its forms – unemployment, insecure housing, debt, etc – are all identifiable risks in our local reviews of coroner’s records and we specifically target more deprived areas in our commissioning and action plans.”Labour-run Islington council had failed to comment by noon today (Thursday).*The plans are prepared by partnerships of local agencies, including local authoritiesSamaritans can be contacted free, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, by calling 116 123 or emailing [email protected]: The Department of Health’s Whitehall officeslast_img read more

Below is the full text of the letter to Jeremy Cor

first_imgBelow is the full text of the letter to Jeremy Corbyn signed by 26 Labour MPs. It rejects the idea of another referendum and urges the party to back a Brexit deal.Dear Jeremy,We write to you and the Shadow Cabinet in the aftermath of the local elections, the European elections and the Peterborough by-election.In 2017, Labour MPs were elected representing both strongly Leave-voting and strongly Remain-voting constituencies. Our Party campaigned on a pledge to respect the outcome of the 2016 referendum and negotiate Brexit. We still believe only this stance gives us the credibility to speak for the whole nation, not the 48% or the 52%.Our Party was devastated in the local elections in longstanding Labour-held councils. The strength of the Brexit Party in Labour heartland areas in the European elections revealed a much more potent threat than either the Liberals or Greens present.The Peterborough by-election result, with Labour’s vote share down 17%, and the Brexit Party coming so close, gives a stark warning of what could happen in Tory-Labour marginals, the majority of which are Leave seats. Labour’s briefing note to Peterborough canvassers sought to assure voters that Brexit will not be stopped. In relation to the Brexit Party candidate it said: “Once Brest has happened, he won’t have any of the answers…” We agree. But we also agree that Brexit must happen. The UK must leave, and do so without further undue delay.A commitment to a second referendum would be toxic to our bedrock Labour voters, driving a wedge between them and our Party, jeopardising our role as a party of the whole nation, and giving the populist right an even greater platform in our heartlands.Labour has a vital role to play fighting for a Brexit for the many, not the few. But this is a battle best fought in stage two, after the UK has left.Rejecting any Brexit in the hope of securing a perfect deal risks the worst outcome – a No Deal Brexit. This would further alienate many who backed Labour in 2017.We urge the Party to put the national interest first, to back a deal before 31 October.With regardsSir Kevin BarronJon CruddasSarah ChampionGloria de PieroJulie CooperJim FitzpatrickRosie CooperCaroline FlintYvonne FovargueGrahame MorrisMary GlindonLisa NandyMike HillMelanie OnnDan JarvisStephanie PeacockStephen KinnockJo PlattEmma Lewell BuckDennis SkinnerJustin MaddersLaura SmithJohn MannGareth SnellJim McMahonRuth SmeethTags:Labour /Brexit /no deal /Public vote /last_img read more