The stupidity and insensitivity of bosses at the Department for Work and Pensions goes from one bizarre level to another.
Now they are handing out guidelines on how to deal with suicidal Universal Credit claimants – in advance of Iain Duncan Smith’s latest plan to push the unfit back into work, which focuses on those with mental illnesses.
Here’s the catch: Call centre staff aren’t being told to use this guidance to help people – instead it has been printed on a pink card that they must wave over their head in a very clear “Here’s one!” gesture.
A manager is then meant to rush across to listen to the call while workers who have no formal training must then assess the degree of risk by asking a series of questions.
Make a note of the date, folks – we’ll need it to judge the effectiveness of the DWP’s procedure when the next figures on claimant deaths are published (sometime after Hell freezes, one suspects).
Or shall we just accuse the DWP of planning to increase the number of suicides among mentally-ill benefit claimants?
As part of a six-point plan for dealing with suicidal claimants who have been denied welfare payments, call-centre staff in Glasgow have been told to wave the guidance, printed on a laminated pink card, above their head.
A manager is then meant to rush over to listen in to the call and workers – who insist they have had no formal training in the procedure – must “make some assessment on the degree of risk” by asking a series of questions.
Glasgow-based call-centre workers have accused the DWP of asking them to carry out the job of a psychologist or social worker.
The SNP have accused the UK Government of “playing a dangerous game with people’s lives”.
Processors and telephonists have to contact claimants to tell them they have been denied the new benefit or are facing sanctions which can mean payments are withheld for up to three years.
One Scottish call handler, who asked not to be named, said: “…This would suggest the DWP is expecting it to happen and I assume that this procedure is in place so that they can say they did their part. But we are not trained to deal with vulnerable people in this way. It’s a very distressing thing for us to handle.
“They’re basically telling us to assess claimants by asking how they intend to self-harm or commit suicide, which is a job that only a trained psychologist, social worker, or at the very least, a counsellor should be doing.”
Another worker said: “There was a man on the phone to me who said if he didn’t get money he’d kill himself. This was before we were issued with the guidelines and I wasn’t sure what to do so I could only try to calm him down.
“He hung up the phone and when I tried to call him back I couldn’t get through. It was very upsetting. I spent the rest of the day worried that he may have taken his own life.
“It wasn’t until the next day that a colleague told me they spoke to him later and he didn’t go through with it.
“But I know of colleagues who have been told by claimants that they are going to commit suicide and they have done so. It’s devastating for them.”
Source: ‘Suicide guidance’ given to benefits staff preparing for desperate calls on welfare reform #From Herald Scotland#
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If they are going to sanction people with mental health issues this means they wouldn’t be able to take the medications as most of which require to be taken with food, there is a huge risk of damaging the stomach. This actually happened to me.
Further, if they stop taking the medications they will clearly be in a position that is unfit for work.
There are some mentally health patients who for whatever readon can not handle the outside world or itys inhabitants: they would be placing not only these patients but everyone else at risk. If someone loses it, especially under the undoubtable extreme and mounting stress. How will they explain that to the general public?
There are many that will need constant care even in the workplace, will they be employing these carers?
“assess the degree of risk by asking a series of questions.” – in other words those managers are using a verbal form of Atos’ notorious descriptors. Why doesn’t this government just give up using corporate techniques and put the job back where it belongs – in the public sector.
Or, indeed, with professional medical practitioners?
Exactly with the person who knows you and your medical history from birth in my case. If we can see that why cant our ” Born to rule and all that Cr** leaders” see it.
Oh silly me, I forgot its not about a fair benefit system its about denial of benefits that we have paid into for a lifetime by compulsory contributions, If any one has forgotten its called NATIONAL INSURANCE.
Mike Its very hard to tell when your angry as you are usually quite cool and measured in your words. Today I can sense the anger and frustration in your post that we all feel and rightly so.
I just wonder if, when the truth comes out about the obscene number of wholly preventable suicides, emerging from under the stinking slimy stone that the secretary of state resides under, we will get the biggest lie ever uttered by humanity of “We were only carrying out orders”. Will that be their only defence? Make no bones about it – to drive someone to commit suicide is murder and should be dealt with accordingly; there cannot be any excuse about the murdered person’s state of mind or that they deserved to die or “it’s not my fault”.
I’d say my tone was one of exasperation.
You’re absolutely right about the suicides. If someone was driven to take their own life, we have to ask what it was that drove them to it. What was the change in their life that made them decide enough was enough? Oh look – the DWP took away the benefits they needed to live/demanded that their benefits had to be reassessed/sanctioned their benefit for a silly reason.
At the Hague, the Nuremberg defence (“only following orders”) will put you at the end of a rope.
Slightly off topic Mike, you might want to check out this BBC article on sanctions, which claims that a fall in sanctions is likely to be due to people getting jobs!
We really must find a way to stop the sustained and cruel discrimination being directed against the disabled by the Cameron regime and co-conspirators like the DWP and IDS. The death toll by now, as must be obvious by the unwillingness of the DWP to release the figures, has probably gone beyond any acceptable levels and I wonder if those figures would indeed show the International Court in the Hague the real extent of Cameron’s and the DWP’s criminal brutality and disregard for the welfare of the most vulnerable people. Could the UN if given enough facts and testimony, actually have a case to prosecute a government department actively collaborating with government officials as a conspiracy to discriminate a minority? I find it difficult to accept that we, as a nation, can do nothing to halt this onslaught.
Sorry to correct you but one suicide/death is unacceptable there can never be an acceptable level of benefit related/sanction/withdrawal.
It’s terrifying just how much IDS is prepared to do to people with illnesses without having the slightest expertise in their conditions. He really is a product of that horrible 70’s-80’s anti-science culture, with ‘Diet-intellectuals’ insisting that their ignorance of a subject made for as valid an opinion as the knowledge of people who had actually studied the subject. This absurd view has given rise to nonsense like Creationism, Climate-Change-Denial, and Choice Economics.
How are these people going to help these who need to claim benefits, Samaritans are the only ones who are trained and qualified in helping these victims of ids if they are suicidal, anything less could push them over the top. What a disgrace.
The stress to their own employees in having to use this mockery of a service is actully illegal in itself, as it is causing them unnecessary mental stress, formal training in assessing mentally ill people has not been given, and the DWP are therefore failing in their obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act.
Time to sack the whole hierarchy above the level of the actual workers who deal with claims and pay benefits – and probably jail the bunch of them for the human rights abuses they are knowingly committing. “I was only following orders” hasn’t been a valid legal defence for 70 years.
I had to read this on another blog three times to actually believe what I was reading, lost for words we have an absolute serial killer in charge of millions of lives. Have the citizens of this country been so hoodwinked by the tory propaganda machine that they turn a blind eye to what is being done. He has to go now.
Pink cards, have you never heard of anything so bloody stupid and pointless! When you go to have a medical, it’s not with a true professional of the subject, just some nurse they’ve hired who hasn’t a clue about your problems, they don’t care what you say and what medication you’re on, they have the government’s agenda at heart, pass them fit for work and get as many loonies off ESA and everything else as possible and if they kill themselves we’ll give you an added bonus on top of the bonus we’ve already given you to declare them all fit for work!