Latest benefit-related suicide – DWP excused as coroner claims errors were breach of procedure, not duty


Oh, so the DWP shouldn’t be blamed for causing Stephen Smith’s deaths because it breached procedure, rather than breaching its legal duty, did it?

What filthy rubbish, from a man who should know better.

Perhaps assistant coroner Nigel Parsley should read up on the DWP’s recent history of such ‘errors’ and see if, perhaps, he can discern a pattern there?

Possibly a target-related pattern?

How many of these deaths need to take place before people like Parsley accept that there is a purpose behind them?

Until he does, the only thing he has achieved with his mealy-mouthed apologism is providing Iain Duncan Smith an excuse for his appalling death count.

A 50-year-old man from Leiston with a history of anxiety took his own life after changes to his benefits left him unable to cope, an inquest heard yesterday.

Stephen Smith, of Seaward Avenue, took his own life on January 17 this year, following a long period of mental health problems.

Changes to the benefits system in June last year meant that Mr Smith was invited to submit a Personal Independent Payment (PIP) claim, as his disability allowance was about to expire.

But after the Department of Work and Pensions ruled that he was ineligible, Mr Smith and his partner Lucy Stewart, who was also on benefits relating to a learning disability, saw their weekly total cut by £137.55, and left the 50-year-old in depair over his financial situation.

However, a follow-up call from the DWP explaining its decision did not take place, prompting Mr Smith to send a formal letter to reconsider the assessment in November with the help of the Disability Advice Centre..

A second error at the DWP in December resulted in Mr Smith’s details being updated, before his appeal was mistakenly closed down before it had been labelled for reconsideration. The DWP in its statement said it admitted that errors had been made.

At the inquest in IP-City Centre Ipswich yesterday, Miss Stewart’s father David said the ensuing anxiety and reduced payments were the triggers for Mr Smith’s suicide.

Assistant coroner Nigel Parsley … recorded that Mr Smith had taken his own life.

Mr Parsley added that while the DWP had admitted to errors, they were mistakes in procedure and were not a breach of its legal duty.

Source: Leiston man, 50, died after being unable to cope with changes to benefits – News – East Anglian Daily Times

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19 thoughts on “Latest benefit-related suicide – DWP excused as coroner claims errors were breach of procedure, not duty

  1. Tony O'Malley

    That is crackers! Civil Servants owe a duty of care to the public generally, and their clients specifically. I would also submit that they are under a duty to follow their own procedures. Failure to do so is clearly a breach of duty that can lead to a breach of duty of care, as appears to have happened in this sad, sad case. Poor decision by the Asst. Coroner that might well be appealable!

  2. Dez

    This particular case highlights why the Chief Coroner should stop sitting on the Goverments fence and write to all Coroners Courts to ensure these suicides are correctly attributed/recognised to ensure the correct causation and remediation steps required to prevent happening again,and again and again….. .. I’m sorry but the perpertraitors had time prior to the Court hearing to create whatever scenario that would be seen in their best legal light….ie incompetence. Suicides do not have best lights and the DWP actions should have been highlighted for being the root cause of this unnecessary death. We will never be told if any decision makers were removed from their life and/or death job.

  3. jeffrey davies

    like far to many now who have paid these butchers bill in bodies aktion t4 still they keep talking about it the siderooms of parliament yet on it goes sadly more to die jeff3

  4. mohandeer

    The truth is that had Stephen not taken his own life theses “errors” would not have been rectified and the DWP’s guilt by omission would not have come to light. Disgusting.

  5. jacqueline

    Mike, can you spot “mistakes in procedure” against the following statements?

    Claimants scoring 15 or more points against the Schedule 2 descriptors will be placed in the Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG) whereas a claimant that meets any of the Schedule 3 descriptors will be placed in the Support Group.
    However, where a person is found not to have met the qualifying conditions for ESA through the functional descriptors, in exceptional circumstances they can still be awarded the benefit; ESA regulation 29 allows -(1)claimants(2)(a)or(b)that have not scored sufficient points against the Schedule 2 descriptors to be placed in the WRAG, and ESA regulation 35 allows -(2)claimants(a)and(b)that have not met any of the Schedule 3 descriptors, to be placed in the Support Group.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Is it relevant whether I can spot a mistake in procedure?
      Isn’t it more relevant whether a coroner, who isn’t DWP-trained, can spot one?
      Isn’t it even more relevant whether a DWP-trained decision maker can spot one?
      … before somebody dies?

      1. jacqueline

        Mike, yes, it is vital that somebody else recognizes the difference between the above directives from the DWP and the actions of the DWP. As you say, the coroners are not DWP-trained nor are they lawyers. A coroner is not told which DWP regulation was in place at the time of death so cannot judge whether or not the relevant procedure had been correctly followed.

        daijohn, i can only agree! That’s why these regulations have successfully baffled most experts. The proposed reforms seek only to legitimize current practice so it is critical that “mistakes in procedure” are identified urgently so that the right questions can be asked of the DWP, and critical that clauses 13 and 14 of the bill are blocked.

  6. Leveler

    It’s clearly too late for the deceased in this suicide case to be concerned over the differences between “procedures” and “legal duty [of care]”.

    But it is interesting to note the term “duty of care” appears in the definition of Corporate Manslaughter.

    Will it ever be possible to prove the DWP are guilty of “a gross breach of a relevant duty of care”, and have a case brought for Corporate Manslaughter?

  7. casalealex

    With the ill conceived totalitarian diktats of Ian Duncan Smith’s widely unpopular policies, it now behoves an assistant coroner to decide that a man’s suicide was ‘not a breach of legal duty’, but ‘due to mistakes in procedure’.

    The minister of the DWP, who’s aggravated intentions are to induce, (in those who are most vulnerable}, the utter hopelessness of the situation in which the DWP itself has placed them; and has led to premature deaths in people who’s illnesses were added to by the stress of DWP decisions; and a large number of whom took their own lives.

    Surely, the assistant coroner is aware of the long running public outcry regarding the many deaths and ‘errors’ caused by the DWP; and he should have been cognizant of the workings of the DWP over the past five years.

    This decision will go down in the annals of injustice!

    1. casalealex

      Mike, as an aside, I have been blocked by FB for a week, so have been unable to share or make comments, especially if they appear ‘political’. No reason given by FB. Hopefully the block will end tonight, and I will certainly be sharing this post x

  8. casalealex

    I thought you might x And Keith must have noticed the same x Hopefully they will let me stay around for a while x It is the season of Good Will – ain’t it? There again, many of your recent posts have been rather depressing – but keep up the good work x

  9. AndyH

    The DWP cannot afford to make errors that cost people’s lives – a milkman accidentally bringing you semi-skimmed milk instead of full fat is fine, but the DWP making a mistake that kills someone – whether it’s by design or default it’s a shocking breach of care.

  10. mrmarcpc

    Something should be done about their blatantly evil, sick twisted ways that they’re getting away with, what else is going to happen before they’re brought to heel, more should stand up to them and shut them down!

Comments are closed.