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A coroner has ruled that a finding that a claimant was fit for work was the ‘trigger’ for his suicide six months later, Disability News Service has discovered.  The uncovering of the coroner's report and the DWP's response, which was written last year, casts doubt on the honesty of the DWP's claims that it is not possible to link claimant's deaths to welfare reform.

Fit for work was trigger
Michael O’Sullivan committed suicide in September 2013. He had been suffering from anxiety and depression for a number of years and had previously been in receipt of incapacity benefit.

Following the inquest into his death in January 2014, the coroner issued a Regulation 28 report which is designed to prevent future deaths occurring in similar circumstances.

In the report the coroner stated that:

“I found that the trigger for Mr O ’Sullivan’s suicide was his recent assessment by a DWP doctor as being fit for work .”

The Coroner went on to say that:

“During the course of the inquest , the evidence revealed matters giving rise to concern. In my opinion , there is a risk that future deaths will occur unless action is taken . In the circumstances , it is my statutory duty to report to you [the DWP]. “

The matters of concern which the coroner set out were:.

“The DWP assessing doctor (who saw Mr O ’ Sullivan for a 90 minute consultation) did not take into account the views of any of Mr O’ Sullivan’s treating doctors, saying that the ultimate decision maker would do that.

“However, the ultimate decision maker (who is not , I understand, medically qualified) did not request and so did not see any reports or letters from Mr O’Sullivan’s general practitioner (who had assessed him as being unfit for work), his psychiatrist or his clinical psychologist.”

The DWP were given 56 days to respond, setting out what action they would take to prevent similar deaths

According to the Disability News Service the Atos health practitioner who examined Mr O’Sullivan was a former orthopaedic surgeon.

DWP response
In their response the DWP claimed that there was a clear policy that further medical evidence should be sought where a claimant mentioned suicidal thoughts in their claim form, but that policy had not been followed in this case.

The DWP said they would issue a reminder to staff, but nothing more than that.

It is worth remembering at this point that the DWP have repeatedly claimed, both in the run up to the election and since, that it is not possible to make any causal link between the deaths of claimants and welfare reform.

Yet, they were very clearly aware last year that a coroner had found that a claimant who had undergone the transfer from incapacity benefit to ESA and been found fit for work had committed suicide as a direct result of that decision.

IDS outrage
As a reminder, this is the Guardian’s account of how Iain Duncan Smith exploded with self-righteous rage when the Green’s Jonathan Bartley quizzed him about suicides linked to welfare reform.

“That’s just scurrilous. You make an allegation and you can not stand that up and I simply say to you be very careful. You say you’re a Christian, be very careful what you say about people’s motivations. . . what I’m telling you now is what we absolutely know is you can not make allegations about individual cases, in tragic cases where obviously things go badly wrong and suddenly say this is directly as a result of Government policy. I totally reject that. What a scurrilous point to make. I think what you said is cheap.”

You can read the full story on the DNS website

You can download the coroner’s report from this link - WARNING, it contains details of the manner of death


+1 #4 Jim Allison 2015-09-26 19:50
Ruby Urbacz, 59, died on 6th September 2015 after her benefits were stopped by officials from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Her death led to son Peter posting on Facebook about his disgust at her unfair treatment at the hands of the DWP, reports the Daily Mirror.

Ruby Urbacz had very basic numeracy and literacy skills, type 2 diabetics and mobility difficulties. As well as mental health problems including depression, which all compromised her health.

To anyone with even an ounce of compassion and understanding, this would have made her an extremely vulnerable women. But for the DWP, it made her an easy target.

She was found “fit to work” by the DWP following a benefits assessment and placed on Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA). This led to her been hounded by the DWP for evidence of her job searches, even though as her son clearly states she struggled writing shopping lists.

According to her sons’ Facebook comment, she survived on £30 a week and £20 of that paid for the hated bedroom tax. This led to her purchasing food from a discount retailer, which in-turn led to increased problems with her diabetes.

Full story : http://www.welfareweekly.com/depressed-mum-died-from-a-heart-attack-after-her-benefits-were-stopped/

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: "If a claimant goes into hospital we can make sure they continue to receive benefits when we're informed of their situation.

"It's irresponsible to suggest a causal link between the death of an individual and their benefit claim

Obviously hasn't read the Senior Coroner's scathing attack on the DWP. !!!

Obviously, the spokesman hasn't read the Senior Coroner's scathing attack on the the DWP
+6 #3 A's Dad 2015-09-22 13:27
Mr O'Sullivan's case concerned his application for ESA. I wonder if the same rule applies to DLA to PIP applications?
My daugher has been getting DLA for about 16 years, but when she was transferred to PIP she was given zero points. She mentioned in her application (I wrote it for her) that she feels suicidal and she said it at her "medical" too.
She has since seen her GP who said that no one from the DWP had contacted her about her claim and she will now be writing to them to support my daughter's claim.
We are appealing the decision and part of the appeal will be that no one with any expertise in mental health has been involved in this decision. (The person who conducted the "medical" was a retired paramedic.)
+9 #2 Sully32 2015-09-21 22:57
The dwp should be held accountable from personnel experience suffering with mental health problems even with proof from a mental health team the decision makers and health professionals [joke] don't take mental health seriously
+11 #1 taylor 2015-09-21 14:34
When are mental health illnesses going to be taken seriously by this government ?

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