The latest death due to a “fit for work” decision may also be among the earliest.
Coroner Tom Osbourne blamed the death of Stephen Carré on a decision by the Department for Work and Pensions that the bipolar Employment and Support Allowance claimant, who was clinically depressed, was fit for work following a work capability assessment.
He joins Michael O’Sullivan and Julia Kelly, both of whose suicides were blamed on the result of work capability assessments by their respective coroners, as the weight of evidence mounts up against the process.
Recently, This Blog demonstrated that deaths of ESA claimants began to decrease after the DWP suspended repeat assessments of ESA claimants in January 2014.
Stephen Carré took his own life in 2010 after he lost an appeal against the finding that he was fit to return to work. He was clinically depressed and had been diagnosed as bipolar.
At the inquest into his death the coroner ruled that the decision that he was “fit for work” had been the trigger for his suicide.
The coroner made his concerns about the system known to the Department of Work and Pensions in March 2010 by issuing what was then known as a Rule 43, a rare and significant intervention.
“I feel the decision by the department NOT to seek medical advice from the claimant’s own GP or psychiatrist if they are suffering a mental illness should be reviewed,” Coroner Tom Osbourne wrote.
His office told ITV News they have never received a “substantive” reply from the DWP to their 2010 letter.
Professor Malcolm Harrington, who led the first three of the Government’s five Independent Reviews into the WCA from 2010 to 2012, says if he had known about the case, he would have raised the alarm about the vulnerability of mental health claimants in the system earlier and more vehemently in the first of his three reviews.
The DWP’s response beggars belief:
A DWP spokesman said: “Suicide is a tragic and complex issue and there are often many reasons why someone takes their life, so to link it to one event is misleading.
How soon they forget. In this instance, they have forgotten the case of Stephanie Bottrill, who left a note clearly and emphatically blaming the government for her suicide. She was a victim of the Bedroom Tax, another Conservative Party Pogrom against the poor.
Here’s an extract from the note:
Does that seem misleading to you?
“Since this inquest took place under the previous Government we have made significant improvements to the Work Capability Assessment, including improving the process for people with mental health conditions.
How unfortunate for the Conservative-run Department for Work and Pensions that the best improvement to the work capability assessment – in terms of the number of deaths it has caused – appears to have been its suspension!
Source: Government welfare advisor did not know about 2010 suicide ‘triggered by work assessment’ – ITV News
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