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Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Liar, liar, your bum's on fire. Your nose is longer than a telephone wire.

The threats to disability benefits are getting more and more frightening as time goes by. People who rely on and need these benefits as they are truly unable to work are getting frightened by the increasingly real possibilities of having their money stopped, being just as unable to work, but unable to claim benefits either.

The conference will hopefully be a force to reckon with, but the even more recent comments from David Blunkett just add more worry to many people.

And if nothing else, this level of stress and concern and anxiety is almost guaranteed to increase people's own experiences of mental ill-health and make them less able to work!

But then today I was listening to PM and heard that David 'Nightmare' Blunkett is considering introducing lie-detector technology onto the phone lines of Civil Servants who work with benefits, so that they can detect false or fraudulent claims from the public.

(I always think I can't be shocked any more, and I always, always am).

Now, this lie detector technology notes changes in the stress of the voice which is undetectable to the human ear. With these minute changes it can identify stress associated with telling a lie. But can it tell the difference between stress from telling a lie and stress from other causes?

There is an insurance company who have apparently used this lie-detector technology on their telephone claim lines for 18 months, to detect and prevent fraudulent applications for insurance money.

They then interviewed a Psychologist who specialised in deception. He stated that yes, the voice does indeed react to stress in certain ways detected by this technology, but this is not necessarily the stress or strain of lying. He pointed out that if someone is phoning esure after a burglary, their voice is likely to show these stress signs as a result of anger or distress or fear of having been robbed.

Similarly, if someone is phoning the Benefits Agency as a result of not having had their money on time, they might well be angry or annoyed or frightened or desperate. If the lie-detector software identifies the strain in their voice as them telling a lie - when in fact they are distressed in a totally different way - they could be labelled a fraud when they are really, truly not.

The psychologist stated that there is no machine that could detect the difference between stress in someone's voice from lying, and stress in someone's voice from being frightened, or angry, or many other emotions.

Putting lie-detector technology onto the phone lines of Benefits Agencies will make people even more concerned and scared to deal with these agencies than they already are. It will make people feel like criminals, and make them fear the repercussions if, for whatever reason, the technology brands them a liar. It will make people who already struggle with using a telephone even more wary. And it's just wrong!

As far as I know, lie-detector tests are not admissible in court because they are just not reliable. Should they then be used in these often life-and-death issues of giving people money to live on?

I think not.

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8 comments:

Joy said...

Totally, I agree with you. If the daytime TV I'm numbing my arse in front of gets too tedious on Friday, I might spend some of my hugely over-generous disability benefits to join you in Sheffield. But if I don't ('cos I'm busy with the kids at church), I'll be with you in spirit...

Naiades said...

I'm just starting a Phd in Psychology.

As far as i know, lie detectors are really quite unreliable. Put it this way, they are very rarely used in research because it is so difficult to interpret the results. I.e. completely unsuitable for mass screening over the telephone lines of the benifits agency.

rx

Rosemary Moore said...

Hallo Pippa - Thanks for your great blog and for spreading the word elsewhere, to my discussion board (mentalmagazine) etc, about the Blunkett proposals and the Conference in Sheffield. If people like you get their dander up perhaps something will happen. Unfortunately, not enough people have been frightened enough to protest enough - yet.
A couple of thoughts on Mr Blunkett's blanket proposals and comments. Firstly, those in his particular disability bracket - blindness - won't be watching Day Time TV will they! Secondly, Mr Blunkett himself could be out of a job (was in fact for a while wasn't he, which was depressing forh him) if he doesn't come up with the radical goods for the Government. So we should just see his pronouncements partly in that light, keeping his job. Although in no way accept them.

Thanks again Pippa.
All the best
Rosemary
www.mentalmagazine.co.uk
http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/mentalmagazine/
"Campaigning for good health & social care...it's for everyone"

j00|{z said...

I've always wondered what would happen if someone was telling the truth but the lie detector said they were lying. I agree with you, most situations involving lie-detectors are high-stress. A perfectly innocent person could be accused of lying and be put to the chair.

TP said...

I too heard the PM programme and was also appauled by the proposals - introducing increasingly ridiculous and highly questionable measures like this one, and the recent terrorist legislation, are bringing us closer to an Orwellian authority.

I believe allowing the government to introduce these things without protest will only encourage complacency, and a feeling of helplessness among the mass population. There is a danger that in the future our human rights will be in jeopardy if we allow these suggestions to go unquestioned now.

Taarna said...

Wow. Big Brother is listening! The person who thought of putting lie detectors on Benefit Agency phone lines should be put on those benefits himself and have to deal with it.
Over here, I've always heard,"Liar, liar. You're pants are on fire" It's funny how little coloquialisms differ.

SoundsEmerging said...

Jeez, I'm stressed all the time, how would they ever think i was telling the truth?!?

Anonymous said...

As a disabled French, I am as scared as you are, even if I hope to be stricken later.
Here they say that Great-Britain is a great example for a French society, bound to unemployment and decay.
They repeat it all day long. we finish believing it
If Mr Blunkett's ideas are carried out seriously, they will lead to a great deal of expenditure, but to no avail. Civil servants would break down and grow our rank !
If not, They would lead us to more stress, more antidepressants.
But let's be hopeful !
You are not as alone as you think, I would thank any information on this topic.
Eric