Disability News Service has uncovered another case in which a coroner issued a ‘Risk of future death’ warning to the DWP after ruling that a fit for work decision was the trigger for a claimant’s suicide. It appears that the DWP never troubled to respond to the warning, which was issued in 2010, in spite of a statutory duty to do so.
Stephen Carre, 41, took his own life in January 2010 after being found capable of work following an Atos work capability assessment (WCA).
Stephen was a former civil servant and telecommunications consultant. He suddenly stopped working in 2007 and lived off his savings for two years before claiming benefits. By this time he had become reclusive and struggled with anxiety and depression.
However, an Atos assessor found that he scored zero points under the WCA and that there was no risk involved in finding him capable of work. The assessor did not actually complete the medical report until eight days after seeing Stephen. No attempt was made to contact Stephen’s GP, community psychiatric nurse or psychiatrist.
Stephen appealed the decision, but took his own life within days of a reconsideration decision that confirmed he was fit for work.
At the inquest, Stephen’s GP and psychiatrist both confirmed that they had not been contacted by Atos or the DWP and that if they had been they would have provided a report.
Shockingly, the DWP did not inform the tribunals service of Stephen’s death, so an oral hearing went ahead at which Stephen’s father attended with his son’s ashes.
The tribunal held that the assessor’s report was ‘ a suspect document’ and found in favour of Stephen.
In spite of the coroner issuing a risk of future death warning, however, the DWP only ever issued a holding response and never a proper reply with a timetable for action as they are legally required to do.
The DWP also chose not to pass on the Coroner’s report to Professor Harrington who was carrying out independent reviews of the WCA at that time.
And the Coalition government, which took office just after the coroner’s report was issued, chose to go ahead with the mass transfer of incapacity benefit claimants to ESA, in spite of the Coroner’s concerns.
You can read the following stories on this issue on the DNS website: