Is the Jeremy Kyle Show being held accountable to a higher standard than the government?

By Bernadette Meaden
June 28, 2019

This week Damian Collins, the Conservative Chair of the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee, said the makers of the Jeremy Kyle Show were irresponsible. They were irresponsible, he said, because they put "really vulnerable people" through a test which may not be accurate,  “causing considerable distress to the people receiving the results."  

In the case of the Jeremy Kyle Show, the test in question was a lie detector. The Committee said such tests were far from reliable, but were being used to label people liars, often in the context of a relationship. Shortly after one show a man who 'failed' such a test had died. His inquest is yet to take place.

From what I have seen of the show, Damian Collins has a very valid point. But when it comes to the use of dubious tests and the mistreatment of vulnerable people, the Jeremy Kyle Show is really nothing compared to the scale of institutionalised bullying which the government has meted out to sick and disabled people for almost a decade.

Is Mr. Collins aware of the catastrophic shambles of the tests which disabled people must go through to get a tiny income under his government? Is he aware that many people close to death have been found fit for work and ineligible for support, by a test which his government’s own expert said was inhumane, but which was rolled out anyway? Is he aware that terminally ill people without an income must now apply for Universal Credit, and turn to foodbanks while they wait for a payment which may not come before they die? 

Is Mr. Collins aware of the disabled people who have lost their independence and are struggling to afford food, because a Personal Independence Payment assessment found they suddenly did not need support?  Is he aware that physically or mentally ill people can have their benefits sanctioned, leaving them starving and reliant on foodbanks?  Just this week I was informed of a mentally ill man who had been living on £15 a month for a year due to sanctions, a fact which only came to light at the foodbank. Is Mr. Collins aware of the Jodey Whiting petition calling for an inquiry into deaths linked to the DWP? Jodey took her life 15 days after her benefits were stopped, because she missed an assessment when she was seriously ill. 

Of course television producers should have a duty of care towards people who appear on their programmes. But the government has a far more onerous duty of care towards people who are literally depending on it to survive, and at the moment it is failing spectacularly in that duty. And it’s not failing simply due to neglect or oversight, though that would be bad enough, but to terrible, deliberate policy decisions.

It is commendable that Mr. Collins wants to protect vulnerable people. But to do that, he really needs to start looking far more closely at the actions and policies of his own party and government. 

* On 1 July 2019, Frank Field MP tweeted: "A constituent of mine hanged himself shortly after losing his Personal Independence Payment. I've asked for an independent inquiry into the circumstances surrounding his death, including the health assessment, so that justice can be gained for his relatives." When he asked Amber Rudd about it in the House of Commons, she said there would be an internal inquiry by the Department for Work and Pensions.

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© Bernadette Meaden has written about political, religious and social issues for some years, and is strongly influenced by Christian Socialism, liberation theology and the Catholic Worker movement. She is an Ekklesia associate and regular contributor. You can follow her on Twitter: @BernaMeaden 

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.