DWP policy is homicidal or it is half-witted – which is it?

On 15 January, Paul’s body was found by bailiffs arriving to evict him. It’s thought he had killed himself two months earlier.’ [Image: Eleanor Donnachie.]

On Thursday, the DWP went to a tribunal to again try to avoid disclosing details about “peer reviews” it carried out into the deaths of 49 people on benefits.

The Guardian‘s Frances Ryan took the opportunity to examine the Department’s treatment of Paul Donnachie, whose body was found on January 15 by bailiffs trying to evict him after a series of errors by the DWP and Glasgow City Council.

He had committed suicide around two months previously and nobody had noticed.

That, in itself, raises an issue. The DWP (reluctantly) publishes information on benefit-related deaths – but Mr Donnachie’s is unlikely ever to be included in it because his would have fallen outside the narrow period in which the Department records deaths of claimants who have been kicked off their benefit.

And then there is the Department’s vile attitude to suicide itself…

When I speak to the DWP about Paul’s case, a spokesman says, “Suicide is a tragic and complex issue, so to link a death to someone’s benefit claim is misleading. We are fully committed to ensuring that people who are too sick to work get the support they need.

“If someone with a mental health condition fails to attend an assessment, we consider whether they have good cause for not attending and if so benefit may continue. If a claimant is considered vulnerable attempts will be made to contact them by telephone and, if appropriate, to arrange a ‘safeguarding home visit’ before a decision on entitlement is made.”

It took me several days to wade through Paul’s dealings with his local council and the DWP – formal letters, forms and phone calls – and I wasn’t hungry, afraid, or dealing with a severe mental health problem at the time. It seems a mix of incompetence and cruelty to be surprised when someone struggling with mental illness is unable to do as this system wants them to – to expect resilience from the very people least able to cope.

It has been estimated, in research hotly contested by the DWP, that “fit for work” tests may have resulted in 590 extra suicides.

It’s dehumanisation in its bleakest form to turn a blind eye to that – to believe bad things will inevitably happen to a certain rung of society or that this is just what comes with “welfare reform”.

Source: Paul Donnachie’s benefits were suspended. Months later, he killed himself | Frances Ryan | Opinion | The Guardian

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21 thoughts on “DWP policy is homicidal or it is half-witted – which is it?

  1. Tony Dean

    I am minded to write a letter to Iain Duncan Smith at his home address in Buckinghamshire and ask him where was the duty of care he stated in writing the DWP has in this case. Given the DWP refuses to check on claimants after their benefit is stopped.

  2. nicola159nicola

    Yes, suicide AND mental health issues are complex subjects. But the fact remains that the people who killed themselves did so following removal of their benefits. Presumably, since they were already in receipt of disability benefits, their MH issues had not appeared overnight. So, they had survived despite their MH issues… yet died following the removal of their benefits. Cause doesn’t always lead to effect – but most of the time it does.

  3. Gracie

    I know of a couple who are both seriously disabled. One has been a DLA claimant for many years and had been awarded it for life and was able to get several motor vehicles through the Motability charity scheme. They had to go for an Atos assessment and the upshot of that assessment is that the DWP deliberately downgraded their claim by 2 points to prevent them from keeping or acquiring another motor vehicle. They tried to get the decision overturned through the reconsideration policy, but that just turned out to be another way this government and the DWP have invented to make themselves look as if they are helping when in fact they are not, the reconsideration is purely there to rubber stamp the original DWP decision maker’s decision.
    This couple were left bereft and suicidal, they live in a rural area and have no means of transport to hospital and doctor appointments or to shops. They certainly cannot travel by public transport and cannot afford expensive taxis. We have stepped in and have engaged the help of several charities and got them an advocate and a benefits expert and are currently escalating their case for tribunal, this could take over a year! Meanwhile they are left without transport and slipping further and further into severe depression and we fear for their safety and mental health now, as well as their deteriorating physical health. The DWP does not want to know.

    What I want to know, is how many disabled people this is affecting and can we get this information through Freedom of Information? The DWP refuse to talk about numbers.

    This is not a case of the DWP making sure people get what they are entitled to, it is a case of the DWP deliberately underscoring people to remove them from benefits and this is a direct order of Ian Duncan-Smith the pensions secretary.

    1. Phil Lee

      I’m now (following the review on Thursday 3rd) in a similar position. I’m wondering how much longer I can go on.

  4. Joan Edington

    To me, this was even sadder for other reasons. Glasgow City Council are the pits and I’m not surprised at their incompetence with the payments. However, I wonder about the poor man’s sister. She only lived 10 miles away, an easy motorway journey, yet her mentally ill brother lay dead for 2 months, over the Christmas period, without her showing any of the interest you would expect from the loving sister she makes herself out to be. Just saying.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      You know nothing of this family’s circumstances and are not in a position to make any judgements at all about the sister.

      1. Tony Dean

        Quite Mike, I am however puzzled that no neighbours had been worried. Where I live, if any of my neighbours had not seen me or my wife for even a few days, they would be checking. (That is based on experience.)

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        This chap was reclusive by nature, though, wasn’t he? Therefore it’s unlikely that any of his neighbours would have known him or taken an interest.

      3. Joan Edington

        You are of course right Mike that I don’t know the individual circumstances, which is why I said it is so sad. I could be very wrong but I was just trying to make the point that, in too many cases nowadays, relatives do not make the effort to keep in touch that they used to do. Afterwards guilt sets in when it is too late.

      1. Terry Davies

        havent you heard. the concepts of community and neighbourhoods ( were killed by Thatcherites )
        I have lived in my street for over 15 years and neither trust nor know many living in the area
        there has been street parties and burglaries which culminated in people moving away.
        there was an attempted robbery of my mail when I was away.
        This is my experience and its not one of a caring community thanks to the tories and blairites.

  5. STEVEN MCGUIRE

    the ranker is a animal he thinks hes above the law hes costing the tax payer millions in benifit changes and cuts with all the sucides hes got to get charged with assited sucide what i would love to do get hundreds of people on buses and protest outside his buckinghamshire hide away where hes pouncing off his rich fatherinlaw and bully him wear it hurts and put him under the stress what he did to these poor people hopefully our day will come

    1. Phil Lee

      It’s not “assisted suicide” to deliberately pursue policies he knows will kill people, for idealogical reasons. It’s genocide.
      And it’s not just IDS – it’s the man who put him in that position, and the whole party that allows him to keep it.
      Look at how Hitler and his party started in the 1930s, and you can see perfectly what blueprint they are following.
      I hope it doesn’t take another world war to bring this bunch of criminals to justice, but if the legal system doesn’t wake up and act soon, it may do.

  6. jeffrey davies

    just another part of their aktion t4 rolling along without much of a ado jeff3

  7. Mr.Angry

    Again will any of the campaign groups enlighten the UN investigators of this tragedy, or will this poor soul become another statistic of Satan’s reforms.

  8. lanzalaco

    bit ironic that this is not far from where Ian Duncan Smith came to Glasgow over 10 years ago to make his mind up how to “help” the unemployed and poor

  9. mohandeer

    DWP spokesperson who either doesn’t know that every opportunity to sanction occurs or is just plain lying through his teeth. If anyone from the DWP had given Paul Donnachie any thought let alone deed as professed by the spokesperson he wouldn’t have been dead for two months!!!!!!
    They really are the most criminal people and should be held accountable for their negligence or criminal behaviour. Depriving someone of their benefits on the flimsiest excuse is tantamount to fraud and depraved indifference.

  10. Samuel Miller (@Hephaestus7)

    The DWP statement that “suicide is a tragic and complex issue, so to link a death to someone’s benefit claim is misleading” seeks to absolve that department from blame. Yet the vast majority of suicides on this list (https://mzolobajluk.wordpress.com/2015/09/14/the-increasing-death-toll-due-to-the-loss-of-benefits/) have been linked to the employment and support allowance (ESA) claim process, or the refusal or removal of ESA and other benefits—so isn’t their deaths a damning indictment of the DWP?

  11. Harry

    I strongly suspect that the Bank bailouts whereby the Public was unlawfully put on the hook for the debts incurred by Banks, acting criminally. When one pauses to consider that Gov Corps should not even be permitted to act in such a flagrantly unlawful way with money owned by the general public….Well Mike, where exactly is accountability?

    Elections?
    Kick the buggers out?
    Hardly. I am quietly certain that the Left/Right Paradigm is transpaent to all by now. Jeremy Corbyn was for a while a transient hope that is seemingly moving incrementally towards the centre.

    Here Mike, read this:-

    https://www.rt.com/op-edge/333831-culprit-migrants-uk-cameron/

    Now the criminals want to end ZIRP and move on towards NIRP. These are scum Mike; No other description comes close, though some would describe these Historical criminals better: But, expletives not allowed here so “scum” will have to do. Trouble is NIRP won’t work….Unless….Traitors can be found in every Gov Corp to abolish money. Traitors you say? But they are two a penny….Precisely right.

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