In the light of David Brown’s death, it seems appropriate to highlight the Department for Work and Pensions’ current policy on claimants who are at risk of self harm or suicide.
That policy is to push them towards suicide by finding them fit for work when they obviously are not.
Claims that people in work have better health than people who aren’t, and are at lower risk of suicide, are nonsense when dealing with a person who is off work for reasons that include suicidal ideation. Any fool can see that.
The guidance on page 252 of the DWP handbook clearly suggests that anybody likely to commit suicide if they are found fit for work should be found fit for work.
This is procuring the suicide of another, contrary to section 2(1) of the Suicide Act 1961. This used to state: “A person who aids, abets, counsels or procures the suicide of another, or attempt by another to commit suicide shall be liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years.”
Now it states: “A person (“D”) commits an offence if— (a) D does an act capable of encouraging or assisting the suicide or attempted suicide of another person, and (b) D’s act was intended to encourage or assist suicide or an attempt at suicide.
The DWP handbook clearly suggests that people who are likely to commit suicide if found fit for work should be found fit for work, so I think the intention is clear.
The attempt to excuse the DWP from any guilt by suggesting it might be healthy is, clearly, specious – apparently plausible but actually wrong.
Turning to the death of Mr Brown: Hindsight shows us he was considering suicide, from the way he discussed it with his family.
But the DWP has done what it always does – denied even the possibility that the actions of its advisors could have anything to do with the death.
The only way around this – as This Writer has explained several times – is for the claimant to make documentary evidence of his or her suicidal thinking. Best of all would be to let the DWP know, along with friends and relatives.
Did Mr Brown do this?
Is that why his Job Centre advisor threatened him with the loss of his benefits?
It seems clear his family should demand a full investigation of the DWP’s treatment of this young man.
The Black Triangle Campaign has expressed its indignation at the new guidelines for assessors of benefit claimants who are at risk of self harm or suicide.
Concerned that the new guidelines could result in assessors forcing vulnerable people into work, the group has called on the Scottish Government to prevent their roll out in Scotland.
Additionally it has also referred the UK Government to a United Nations (UN) committee which carries out investigations into “grave and systematic violations” of the fundamental human rights of the disabled.
The new guidance suggests assessors may consider denying benefits to applicants at risk of suicide or self-harm as a way of benefiting them over the long term.
This is in contrast to the previous guidelines, where it was stated that someone who is at suicide risk should be placed in the designated Support Group.
On page 252 of the new department of work and pensions (DWP) handbook it states: “If you conclude that finding a claimant fit for work would trigger risk of suicide or self-harm then you need to consider whether there are factors that would mitigate the risk if the claimant were found fit for work.
“Have you considered the benefits of employment weighed against any potential risks? Remember that there is good evidence that people in work have better health outcomes and are at lower risk of suicide.”
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