Was David Brown a victim of DWP policy for claimants at risk of suicide: to PUSH THEM TOWARDS IT?

Tributes have been paid to devoted Middlesbrough fan David Brown, pictured (left) with his brother Adam (right).

In the light of David Brown’s death, it seems appropriate to highlight the Department for Work and Pensions’ current policy on claimants who are at risk of self harm or suicide.

That policy is to push them towards suicide by finding them fit for work when they obviously are not.

Claims that people in work have better health than people who aren’t, and are at lower risk of suicide, are nonsense when dealing with a person who is off work for reasons that include suicidal ideation. Any fool can see that.

The guidance on page 252 of the DWP handbook clearly suggests that anybody likely to commit suicide if they are found fit for work should be found fit for work.

This is procuring the suicide of another, contrary to section 2(1) of the Suicide Act 1961. This used to state: “A person who aids, abets, counsels or procures the suicide of another, or attempt by another to commit suicide shall be liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years.”

Now it states: “A person (“D”) commits an offence if— (a) D does an act capable of encouraging or assisting the suicide or attempted suicide of another person, and (b) D’s act was intended to encourage or assist suicide or an attempt at suicide.

The DWP handbook clearly suggests that people who are likely to commit suicide if found fit for work should be found fit for work, so I think the intention is clear.

The attempt to excuse the DWP from any guilt by suggesting it might be healthy is, clearly, specious – apparently plausible but actually wrong.

Turning to the death of Mr Brown: Hindsight shows us he was considering suicide, from the way he discussed it with his family.

But the DWP has done what it always does – denied even the possibility that the actions of its advisors could have anything to do with the death.

The only way around this – as This Writer has explained several times – is for the claimant to make documentary evidence of his or her suicidal thinking. Best of all would be to let the DWP know, along with friends and relatives.

Did Mr Brown do this?

Is that why his Job Centre advisor threatened him with the loss of his benefits?

It seems clear his family should demand a full investigation of the DWP’s treatment of this young man.

The Black Triangle Campaign has expressed its indignation at the new guidelines for assessors of benefit claimants who are at risk of self harm or suicide.

Concerned that the new guidelines could result in assessors forcing vulnerable people into work, the group has called on the Scottish Government to prevent their roll out in Scotland.

Additionally it has also referred the UK Government to a United Nations (UN) committee which carries out investigations into “grave and systematic violations” of the fundamental human rights of the disabled.

The new guidance suggests assessors may consider denying benefits to applicants at risk of suicide or self-harm as a way of benefiting them over the long term.

This is in contrast to the previous guidelines, where it was stated that someone who is at suicide risk should be placed in the designated Support Group.

On page 252 of the new department of work and pensions (DWP) handbook it states: “If you conclude that finding a claimant fit for work would trigger risk of suicide or self-harm then you need to consider whether there are factors that would mitigate the risk if the claimant were found fit for work.

“Have you considered the benefits of employment weighed against any potential risks? Remember that there is good evidence that people in work have better health outcomes and are at lower risk of suicide.”

Source: Outrage from campaigners at benefit denials for suicide risk claimants | CommonSpace

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15 thoughts on “Was David Brown a victim of DWP policy for claimants at risk of suicide: to PUSH THEM TOWARDS IT?

  1. Barry Davies

    The premise that being in work will stop you committing suicide is ridiculous, I have know 2 people who went home and killed themselves after a full shift where they gave away no sign whatsoever of their intent, I am qualified as a Psychiatric nurse, also someone I knew at school went home form school and did it although she was a popular girl, and showed no signs of anything other than being happy. The point is you need to know everything that is going on in the persons life, otherwise you can’t if you are qualified medically prescribe treatment which is effectively what the medically unqualified DWP staff are doing, and should be prosecuted for doing so.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      While I agree with much of that, you are also offering the DWP an excuse – that they can’t know what is in a person’s mind.
      The counter-argument is that they can – if the person has communicated suicidal feelings to them, either by letter or in interview.
      That’s why I want to know what Mr Brown told his Job Centre adviser and why she threatened to take his benefits away when he was clearly doing everything he could to find work.

  2. Jeffrey Davies

    hmmm while they talk about about the plight of the many while they talk about benefit sanctions the abused roll over given up the ghost while they talk about this but dwp tell the truth adhere to law nah its their policy push push push till another bites the dust all under the guise of aktion t4 brought to you by a tory government culling the stock by anymeans

  3. G.w

    Dwp are killing more people than david. This is first article about this pressure ive read. I have a list of dwp pressure suicides friends and family unfortunately.

  4. CMG

    The ducking stool has always seemed the best comparison for Work Capability Assessments and sanctions, but these cases are even worse.

    At least in medievel times the drowned women were exonerated from witchcraft. These days the DWP will claim it is ‘misleading’ to blame them for the death of a soul who has declared they are suicidal, been driven over the edge by DWP actions and where a coroner has agreed that their systems were a trigger.

    As well as proving themselves more backward than the Witchfinder General, it’s a crime under the Suicide Act 1961 you’ve linked to recently. Only prosecutions and imprisonment can put an end to the nightmares.

    Best wishes to you, Mrs Mike and all the good people who read this.

  5. Margaret manning

    It’s more than obvious that this young 18yr old boy took his life. After being humiliated by a job centre worker dwp should be held culpable for this tragic loss of life But once again they’ll use anything they can to make it look like there no evidence that jobcentre woman triggered this action I too was humiliated by woman jobcentre so t told my MP and dwp of her behaviour got letter back dwp stating “we cannot find any thing wrong with way this woman handled my apt. I’ve emailed head dwp. Telling him do not say that she wasn’t guilty of what I told u I’m nit in habit of lying she said you won’t get JSA like ESA when u get money for doing nothing I think that highly inappropriate comment. She also indicated to me if I want JSA I had to lie and state I’m fit go work I said I’m a. Clearly nit fit to work. Do u want me to lie the. She nodded and said well if u want some money u do and u cannot life off fresh air can u. Very humiliating so I told her how ill I was past 18yr severe kidney pain in huge amount meds inc two sorts morphine aswell renal pain have broken rib, two hernias, post opp condition vomitting bile after gallbladder opp and numerous other chronic conditions she then said I think u shud ring dwp chase up your MR indicating clearly I’m unfit to work It doesn’t matter wotever u say the dwp say back it didn’t happen I must be mistaken. No I was not

  6. Cath White

    The guidance is nothing less than illegal under the suicide act. The government are therefore breaking the law.
    It is time those who passed these guidelines are told that this is against the actual law. Guidelines are NOT the law. The law trumps guidelines every time.

  7. Patricia Gledhill

    I think you’ve said should when you meant shouldn’t a couple of times.
    Of course people in work have better outcomes they’re not ill

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      No, the article is correct and supports the headline. DWP rules authorise staff to push people towards suicide.

  8. casalealex

    “Have you considered the benefits of employment weighed against any potential risks? Remember that there is good evidence that people in work have better health outcomes and are at lower risk of suicide.”

    So, are they saying that those, for instance, who are ‘working’ in zero hour jobs are healthier than those who have no job? Surely, the strain of never knowing if they will be able to meet their weekly financial commitments day by day could be the cause of people ‘giving up’ and unable to cope any longer?

  9. mrmarcpc

    yes, poor David was pushed to it, that’s the tory party’s agenda, push as many poor, ill and disabled people to the brink of suicide as possible and if we kill ourselves, they get a nice, fat, juicy bonus of their success, the nazis never lost the war, they’re alive and thriving in 21st century Britain!

  10. AnotherOneBitesTheDust

    I have several illnesses for which I have to take medication which has very strong side effects. I have also suffered from depression over many years but have managed to deal with it without thoughts of self harm.

    Due to the treatment I received for staying on benefits led me to having a breakdown in the job centre. It’s been two months and I have been in continuous breakdown. The doctors treating me for my other illnesses admitted me to hospital where I was diagnosed as being in severe depression with suicidal ideation but not directly.

    As I am no longer on benefits (housing benefit being dependant on receipt of other benefits) I have been informed I will soon be receiving notice of eviction leading to homelessness. As I take a lot of medication daily I will not be able to keep the large amounts with me and it will also be difficult to take them at the required time. This, together with the effects of staying outside day and night in the wintery conditions will do what DWP want, i.e. to get another reduction in their figures for claimants.

    That result to me feels much better than having to go through the DWP treatment again. I still breakdown just thinking of DWP but feel at peace knowing soon I won’t have to go through it again.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Have you written to the DWP (and the press) to point out that your suicidal ideation is entirely due to their treatment of you, and demanding immediate reconsideration and better treatment?

Comments are closed.