The DWP has lied; ministers know ‘fit for work’ decisions lead to death

Too ill to work means too ill to live: Work capability assessors have neglected to carry out their duties properly, and this has led to the deaths of claimants.

Too ill to work means too ill to live: Work capability assessors have neglected to carry out their duties properly, and this has led to the death of at least one claimant.

Let’s get this straight: In an inquest into the death of a disabled man, a coroner ruled in early 2014 that his suicide was a direct result of being declared ‘fit for work’ in a work capability assessment.

Bearing this in mind…

What has the DWP been saying about there being “no causal link” between its administration of the benefit system and the deaths of claimants, again?

Time and time again, we have been told that there is no link between the deaths of any benefit claimants and their treatment by the DWP, even though that government department had at least one report proving the opposite. We can say “at least one report” because we have no evidence to show that coroners have not submitted many, many more.

We do have evidence that the Department for Work and Pensions – and with the Conservative Government as a whole – has been lying to us.

The DWP’s response to the concerns raised by North London coroner Mary Hassall was that its policy on dealing with cases such as that of ‘Mr A’, the deceased, “regrettably was not followed in this case”. And in how many others?

The Atos-employed work capability assessor, responsible for collecting evidence to determine whether Mr A should receive Employment and Support Allowance, had recorded that Mr A was “at no significant risk by working” and failed to ask him if he had suicidal thoughts. Perhaps this is for the best, as we know from experience that the next question is “Why haven’t you killed yourself?” – the query that many of us suspect has ‘nudged’ many towards suicide.

According to Disability News Service, “The Atos healthcare professional had failed to take into account the views of any of Mr A’s doctors during a 90-minute assessment, telling him the DWP decision-maker would look at that evidence instead.

“But the DWP decision-maker did not request any reports or letters from Mr A’s GP (who had assessed him as not being well enough to work), his psychiatrist (who had diagnosed him with recurrent depression and panic disorder with agoraphobia), or his clinical psychologist (who had assessed him as “very anxious and showing signs of clinical depression”). Instead, Mr A was found fit for work. Six months later, he killed himself.”

Six months later? So Mr A would not have appeared in any of the statistics released by the DWP in August, then.

You see how the government has tried to spin its way out of responsibility?

The DNS report continues: “The coroner said in her report that she believed that action should be taken ‘to prevent future deaths’ and that DWP had the power to take such action.

“In its response, DWP said there was a ‘clear policy that further medical evidence [should be requested] in cases where claimants report suicidal ideation in their claim forms which regrettably was not followed in this instance’. It said it planned to issue a reminder to staff about this guidance, but appeared to make no further suggestions for how to prevent further such deaths.”

We have no evidence that any such reminder was issued to staff or that any of them acted upon it if it was.

These are circumstances that should lead to a major prosecution for corporate manslaughter.

According to the Crown Prosecution Service, an organisation is guilty of corporate manslaughter if the way in which its activities are managed or organised causes a person’s death; and amounts to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed by the organisation to the deceased. An organisation is guilty of an offence if the way in which its activities are managed or organised by its senior management is a substantial element in the breach.

It seems clear that, not only has the coroner accused the DWP of such a breach; the Department has admitted it – and failed to take steps to stop it happening again.

Let’s pause for a moment and note that we would not have evidence that the DWP has been lying about the “causal link” between its behaviour and the deaths of benefit claimants without my now-infamous Freedom of Information request – submitted in May 2014, after the inquest into the death of Mr A.

The request called for the number of deaths of anybody who had been found ‘fit for work’ between the end of November 2011 and May 28, 2014. This would, of course, have included the death of Mr A. The DWP failed to include his death in its statistical release of August 27 this year (which the government claims is a response to my request). Only people whose claim ended within two weeks of their death were included in the figures. I have asked the Information Commissioner to enforce publication of the full number of deaths, in line with both my request and his decision notice of April 30 this year.

It is only when the full number of deaths is known that we may be able to start assessing the full, devastating effect of Iain Duncan Smith’s policy of hate towards people with long-term illnesses and disabilities.

For those of us who are working to defend the most vulnerable people in society, important ground has been gained.

But the hardest battle is yet to come.

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  1. Adam Clifford September 20, 2015 at 4:22 pm - Reply

    The quality of mercilessness of the DWP and their employees and their indifference to the suffering and possible suffering of those most vulnerable reminds me of the savagery of the SS and their casual indifference to the agony they inflicted and witnessed.

  2. mili68 September 20, 2015 at 4:23 pm - Reply

    Tweeted @melissacade68

  3. Jeannie Harrison September 20, 2015 at 4:28 pm - Reply

    This is real folks, if it wasn’t for the love of my children it could happen to me too, every day is very hard and still I would give my last penny to someone less fortunate and indeed I do. And life is scary, really scary.

    • Very scared September 21, 2015 at 2:02 am - Reply

      Yup, for me too. I’ve taken overdoses and still self harm and eating disorders returned with a vengeance ever since my extremely traumatic WCA 3 years’ ago. And not one day in those 3 years goes past without intense anxiety about when the next WCA torture will begin. My life has come crashing down on top of all the various chronic illnesses I already had, I struggle every single day to get through and not kill myself. I am in intense psychological treatment and see a psychiatrist and am on higher dose meds, in addition to 40+ years Type 1 diabetes with complications, and 30+ years CFS. How can I live any quality of life when all I have to look forward to is battles to get through corrupt and target-driven assessments? I know, as economically inactive citizens (of course periods of voluntary work count for NOTHING!), we are now the lowest of lows and being driven to our deaths one way or another, and I used to be a fighter but ran out of steam 3 years’ ago. Each day I’m ready to leave this mortal coil as it’s impossible to feel hopeful even with Jeremy trying his hardest. Thank you Mike for your bravery and perseverance, you are often the reason I get through each day. xx

  4. philipburdekinP September 20, 2015 at 4:49 pm - Reply

    Why are these killers above the LAW, nobody should be above the LAW

  5. leonc1963 September 20, 2015 at 4:58 pm - Reply

    Bearing in mind this death was also before ATOS terminated the contract do you think this Coroners section 28 report had any bearing on ATOS walking away from the contract Mike

    • Mike Sivier September 20, 2015 at 6:14 pm - Reply

      I couldn’t say.

  6. thelovelywibblywobblyoldlady September 20, 2015 at 5:24 pm - Reply

    As we have always suspected Mike … the causal link is there!

  7. AndyH September 20, 2015 at 5:43 pm - Reply

    If the DWP thinks the WCA doesn’t lead to deaths, then they are either a) lying or b) unbelievably stupid. Either way they should not be in charge of a cake stall, let alone a government department.

  8. Samuel Miller (@Hephaestus7) September 20, 2015 at 5:49 pm - Reply

    Did the DWP appoint Priti Patel as Employment minister because she is a former tobacco lobbyist and therefore adept at brushing off people’s death?

    • wildswimmerpete September 20, 2015 at 10:06 pm - Reply

      @Samuel Miller
      “she is a former tobacco lobbyist”………just like the Tories’ propagandist Lynton Crosby. Another tobacco lobbyist.

  9. Neilth September 20, 2015 at 5:51 pm - Reply

    So have you put these allegations to the police? I agree that there appears to be a prima facie case for a corporate manslaughter charge. There would need to be a careful watch that there is no political interference in the judicial process.

    I’m betting there will not be any charges brought.

    Why the hell aren’t the courts getting involved and defending us from the attacks on our freedoms and our rights by this shabby, vindictive administration?

    The Unions should be looking to Europe to protect us from the political chicanery that they are looking to use to destroy the labour movement.

    • Mike Sivier September 20, 2015 at 6:13 pm - Reply

      I can’t put these allegations to the police, for the simple reason that I’m not directly affected by any of the deaths – so they would say it’s none of my business.

  10. Jeffery Davies September 20, 2015 at 5:57 pm - Reply

    Oh but this realy started with bombmer blair this wca not has bad has one had help from welfare organisations cab it reflects badly on them all they had so much evidence sent to them they all new it was culling the stock but played stum now its getting out a bit more they culled the stock by anymeans it being fobbed off yet ifs worse than whot they say has these figures given are no were near the real figures after all said and done they will get away with culling the stock you bet they all got that get out of jail card jeff3

  11. Samuel Miller (@Hephaestus7) September 20, 2015 at 6:09 pm - Reply “But the DWP decision-maker did not request any reports or letters from Mr A’s GP (who had assessed him as not being well enough to work). [Note from Samuel]: In the tragic Mark Wood case, his GP Nicolas Ward was not contacted by Atos or the Department for Work and Pensions about his patient’s medical history. Dr. Ward told the court that, had he been asked, he would have ruled him unfit for work.

  12. Mark September 20, 2015 at 6:38 pm - Reply

    I was found ‘fit to work’ 2 years ago, took the case to tribunal and the decision was over turned within 5 minutes. As a point of interest the Atos accessory blatantly lied in parts of his report and also fabricated a misleading version of what i had said, they no full well what there doing!

  13. marcusdemowbray September 20, 2015 at 7:47 pm - Reply

    How to brutalise a system: use two groups of people (not trained experts) to assess a person’s mental and/or physical fitness for work, using a standardised clerical “tick box” process. The first group assess the claimants and tick the boxes. They are NOT decision makers, they are just box tickers, so they do not need to feel any guilt or responsibility.

    The 2nd group, let’s call them The Management, receive the forms with boxes ticked, according to how many boxes are ticked, The Management will notify the claimant whether or not their claim is unsuccessful. The Management are not Decision Makers, they only note how many ticks there are and inform the claimant. None of the staff need to worry, their consciences and clear, both groups regard the other group as the ones who do the nasty work.

    Both groups are also under great pressure because of Government job cuts and targets, so they keep their heads down and pretend all is reasonably alright.

    I believe that in the 1930s and 1940s a similarly despotic regime led by a fellow with an odd moustache used the same formula for getting their staff to do unpleasant tasks.

    Bullying, propaganda and threats to make people obedient, and cleverly divided into two groups so that neither feels they are the responsible ones.

    Keep up the good work Mike!

  14. Helen Hill September 20, 2015 at 8:20 pm - Reply

    Just wanted to say thank you once again Mike. X

  15. davidwilson457451595 September 20, 2015 at 8:35 pm - Reply

    It was pointed out in the artilcle that the DWP would issue a reminder to the member of staff involved, this is truly disgusting they should be disciplined and saccked at the very least.
    But that is the problem the recent governments have made it so that civil servants do not have to take the blame and that no one would be able to be taken to court for wrongdoing in thier jobs which is lamentable they sould be made to face the consequenses limke any other meber of the public who do something wrong at work.

    • W Leon September 21, 2015 at 7:09 am - Reply

      Not just ‘sacked’, they NEED TO BE JAILED!

  16. A-Brightfuture September 20, 2015 at 9:22 pm - Reply

    I reckon the DWP “decision makers” will be the ones who will bear the brunt of the back lash,(and a lot of them should), absolutely shocking decision making on the back of a bogus assessment report, the DWP knew/know the WCA was/is a complete farce.

    Lives have been lost, all for the sake of saving a few pennies and IDSs own vision of utopia.

    The big guns never get their hands dirty, they get their minions to do it……………then blame them when the crap hits the fan.

    IDS never made “fit to work” decision on any assessment form. The decision makers did, and it will be their word of “just following orders” against his word of yadda yadda blah blah.

    However all fingers should be pointing at………………>>>>>>Cameron!!! He is giving the green light for IDS to run a department in a chaotic and corrupt manner.

  17. Rupert Mitchell (@rupert_rrl) September 21, 2015 at 7:08 am - Reply

    I totally agree with A-Brightfuture and, in particular, with the last paragraph.

  18. G.G. W Lewis September 21, 2015 at 7:22 am - Reply

    The problem here is that “Corporate” manslaughter is a concept aimed at “Corporations”, ie. companies. The definition of “Corporate Manslaughter” as present in the Law fits the description but in my view is not applicable because the State is not a Corporation.

    In British Law, the State can kill people. Nobody else can! But the State can and does kill people and gets away with murder, quite literally in my view.

    The only way this might be resolved is for a good legal Team to assess the issue in the light of International Law, for example crimes against Humanity.

    I have repeatedly emailed my local MP and listed the names I see as responsible for this onslaught of vulnerable people and never received a formal reply as to what measures she or the Labour Party would be willing to take. Of course, this was before the Corbyn administration, so it might change in the future.

    Let’s face it… The British State and its Establishment are immensely corrupt and morally bankrupt. No matter where I look, I see unanswered accountability for these matters.

    • Mike Sivier September 21, 2015 at 10:48 am - Reply

      The State is indeed a corporation in the eyes of this law.

  19. Jim September 21, 2015 at 9:14 am - Reply

    What astonishes me is that the government continues to pursue this course of “reforms” in the full knowledge, whatever they say to the contrary, that large numbers of people have lost their lives as a direct/indirect result of sanctions and similar.

    Conservative governments in the past would have faced up to these issues and changed its programme. (Peter Lilley would have behaved like this, or worse, if he had been allowed to but many Tories, although harsh, were not murderous.) I despised Thatcher and all her works but cannot imagine such atrocities would have gone on for long under her premiership.

    I just don’t understand it.

    How can any principled government continue to behave like this?

    • Mike Sivier September 21, 2015 at 10:47 am - Reply

      What makes you think the UK government has principles?

  20. Ruby September 21, 2015 at 11:54 am - Reply

    My ex colleague with BPD who self harmed because of pressure from Jobcentre, is now back in his voluntary work and looks very fragile.
    The point is…he was actually judged by ATOS to be UNFIT for work for another 2 years! Go figure!
    People are being hounded whilst they know they are still sick!
    He is not in the WRAG group, he is officially sick.

  21. mrmarcpc September 21, 2015 at 3:32 pm - Reply

    This country and this government really make me despair and make my blood boil, not one of these b*****ds are going to be held to account for this agenda that they are carrying out, where the hell is the opposition to all of this, where the hell is both the UN and the EU, no one seems to be doing a bloody thing about it all, nobody seems to care at all, this country and its people are lost and crushed under the boot heel of the new SS that is the tory party!

  22. tommaz jay September 21, 2015 at 11:52 pm - Reply

    This is my testament

    I don’t wish to negate the terrible loss of life that this unelected, unmandated and despot government is responsible for. Beside theses fallen heroes are an equal if not a sadder statistic that is the number who have tried unsuccessful to end their lives. I speak from experience.

    After taking twenty seven of the thirty days allowed to fill in my ESA50 and agonised over every word, syllable, full stop, comma and dash that took over my whole existence for the twenty seven days and nights the form was sent off to ATOS the purveyors of death, despondency and utter total misery.

    I won’t go into the details of my disability save to say that it precludes any type of work on the ground that I am a danger to myself because of long recent mental illnesses.

    The day that the death warrant arrived from ATOS I read the letter once, then again and again, again, again not comprehending why they were accusing me of lying, skiving, scumbag not worth of help from a benefit that I had paid into for over forty years.

    With my brain boiling inside I took the only course of action open to my torched mind and took every medication that I had.

    Three days and two cardiac arrests latter I woke to a feeling of utter shame not for the hurt I had inflicted on my family, but for the fact that I had failed in my attempt to end the torment that the whole process was and still is inflicting upon me.

    I am after a paper reconsideration in the support group with little or up to now no contact with the DWP.

    You would think that I should be grateful for my miserly £105 a week that I traded for £85,000 a year. I still wake every morning angry that I have not died in my sleep. I wish that I could die every waking moment and why. The truth is that the whole system has let me down badly. I feel attacked at every turn of a right wing newspaper or television newscast. Sensible friends and relatives make assumptions about my ability to work – the most recent from my own son that, as I can type, then I should be capable of working in a call centre or helping older people at B & Q.

    The one thing the governmental propaganda machine has done and is still doing well is the brainwashing of the public at large. Demonising would be a more apt word for it as we see young people, the ill and disabled and now the old having their futures sacrificed on the government’s altar of pure dogmatic ideological greed.

    Tommaz Jay
    Frightened, very frightened for all of our futures

    • Very scared September 22, 2015 at 11:14 am - Reply

      I also wake every single morning wishing I had died in my sleep and spend each day wishing I could die. I went to have a breast lump checked out yesterday at the hospital and was gutted it wasn’t cancer (I would NOT have had treatment for it) – I even told my GP this. I feel terribly guilty that I used NHS time & money to have it x-rayed and ultra sounded in the hope I would be given a death sentence. Is that sick? Is that part of the chronic mental illnesses I’ve struggled with for over 30 years? No. I’ve never felt so much like wanting to die all the time since my WCA experience 3 years’ ago, and the constant dread of the next round (& now the dread of DLA lifetime award > PIP assessment too). What is the point of life with this existence????

      • Mike Sivier September 22, 2015 at 12:09 pm - Reply

        Hold on. Change is coming.

      • Michele Witchy Eve September 24, 2015 at 10:19 am - Reply

        In a similar situation, thinking and doing similar things. Refusing treatments etc, weight down to 5 stone through stress and all the rest of it. Went to an interview yesterday, good basic admin job with big law firm. Age and health against me but not nearly sick enough for even ESA. Need more advanced training in IT and modern admin methods (no recent experience holds you back). Nothing on offer but sympathy from the Work Programme. That ends in about 6 months and then onto the next fun bit of working for my social security benefits payments. Keep holding on, praying for something to say it will be over soon one way or the other. Changes can’t come quick enough for too many of us. Like my old dad used to tell us, when you get to the end of the rope hang onto the knot for all you’re worth.

  23. jonno September 23, 2015 at 9:40 pm - Reply

    After 30 years of DLA I was assessed by a woman claiming to be a nurse on my unique symptoms that were brought about by taking part in a drug trial for the NHS. Basically the drug killed me and I came back as a zombie with damage to nerves, organs and DNA. I was the only survivor and my DLA was awarded for life.
    so this woman LIED on every single question meaning that I lose my DLA my car and my income. I will not be able to travel to food banks or go to the shops. I will be housebound with no food or heating and no way to get any. the review takes at least 28 days. I will get £2000 from motability as a transition payment to help buy a vehicle which I will not be able to afford to runand in any case the DWP will most likely deduct this from my ESA
    .I will no longer be eligible for council tax discount so will begin to get into debt.

    Even if my appeal wins it will be 4 months at least before I will get another car.

    If I want a life with less stress and suffering I could wait at the hall used by ATOS and smack the assessor in the face with my walking stick and spend the time in a warm prison with food and medical care.
    I don’t even care how badly she could be hurt because she has no problem hurting others and it could save a life.

    Other people like her have managed to steal my pension, savings and home while hiding behind fake names. They have misinformed me and set me up to take everything I own.

    I even had an independent case examiner ruling in my favour but received £100 as a “tangible apology” for robbing me of my £25000 pension by “mistake”

    I have no idea what to do next, I have food for 3 days and 20 quid.

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