Yes, let’s have an inquiry into DWP benefit assessors encouraging suicide – but make it independent

The simple fact is that the “Why have you not committed suicide” question is standard – or has been used often enough to be accepted as such.

Vox Political‘s comment columns are full of them. Here’s one:

“I had an appointment with a mental health social worker who stated quite openly ” suicide is an option” within the mental health guidelines given to staff. Whether this is written down or just spoken I couldn’t say. I asked how this could be? Her answer didn’t surprise me ” It costs less if people commit suicide”!”

Or how about these two, taken in conjunction:

“I had an assessment with ATOS and they asked me if i had had any thoughts about killing myself. And what medication’s did i have etc, and had i thought of taking them to end my life. I was taken off ESA and told i was fit for work after the assessment, no warning that my money would be stopped, it just stopped and then i received a letter a week later.”

“i was also asked if I had ever thought of killing myself and why I hadn’t actually done it, I was also taken off with no notice, and my rent payment to my landlord was cancelled, I was then told I was only entitled to food money, 19.20 a week, rent and utilities are apparently classed as luxuries.”

Still not convinced? Try this:

“They asked me too at my assessment. I told them, because of my children… but that doesn’t mean I don’t think about it.”

Or this:

“I was asked the same question by Capita as well as ATOS, I wonder if it’s in the DWP ‘Script’?”

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “That’s all very well, Mike, but it doesn’t prove that the question is standard.”

But here’s the thing:

These are all responses to the articles published on this subject, by Vox Political, in 2014.

The fact that people are still being encouraged to take their own lives – by DWP assessors – more than two years later should be all the evidence that is needed.

This Site supports The Canary‘s assertion that an investigation should be launched into this – with one caveat: It should be carried out independently and not by the DWP.

Several people contacted us with similar stories to Alice Kirby’s. Most have asked that we do not mention them by name. The majority of them said they feared it could affect their claims.

The Canary asked Atos whether asking people why they hadn’t killed themselves yet was a standard question:

“This is not a standard question, however it is important to note our health professionals should be assessing this particular risk of all claimants who present with mental health conditions.

“Our trained and qualified health professionals have a duty of care to all claimants and so should this topic arise in an unprompted way during wider assessment discussions, our staff are trained to sensitively ascertain the nature of a person’s mental wellbeing.

“If a level of risk is identified we would then be required to share this with an independent medical health specialist.”

The DWP also told us that the healthcare professionals who carry out the assessments are supported by ‘mental health champions’ who have relevant mental health work experience.

1) Will the DWP look into these claims?

“We are not aware of any complaints made to either DWP or our contractors on this issue, but would investigate any allegations thoroughly.”

2) Is the DWP happy with Atos assessors asking questions that psychologists claim these assessors are insufficiently experienced to be asking?

“All PIP assessment providers receive training on mental health conditions, including suicidal issues.”

3) Was the DWP already aware that Atos staff were asking people why they hadn’t killed themselves yet?

“Healthcare Professionals receive training in order to conduct functional assessments on behalf of the DWP and their training includes conducting a mental health assessment which may, if appropriate, include questions about suicide or self-harm.”

Source: More people come forward in the DWP ‘Kill Yourself’ scandal

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6 thoughts on “Yes, let’s have an inquiry into DWP benefit assessors encouraging suicide – but make it independent

  1. Justin

    complete rubbish,they investigate it, the problem is the person who has been assessed may not want to complain due to there vunerable condition, by the time they get round to that it is sorta of to late, this is why recordings must be made as a option at the medical,not you must provide equipment and have it checked,retrospectively a assessor having 3 tribunal against him turned over then there should be looked at all the cases they involve for irregulariites and if they are warranted as well as disciplinary procedures, mandatory reporting to the professional body similiar to what actually happens in the nhs and trusts,not what actually happen,you get a letter they been a naughty person and wont do it again until caught out later, the whole process is rubbish,carried out under deceit and carried out by companies who’s reputation is dubious to say the least and is still allowed to carry on this practice, there needs to be a look into why this is and if this is because there are political involvement protecting these companies then that needs to be addressed and only a totally independant inquiry, including service users with experience to look at records will do this and if that means people getting struck of and prosecutions and compensation claims then that has to happen.

  2. Barry Davies

    Asking if you are suicidal would be a relevant and acceptable question, but any question, asked in a manner in which it could be construed as encouraging you to commit suicide, should be regarded as a crime.

    1. Justin

      I have been asked that before and again asked at wca , i am also have had safeguarding training etc and this should be said with care and diplomacy,when they have asked me this it has been, however having seen a few medical reports and the comments made by the professional i begin to wonder what planet there on, examples ranging from with care and support they can find work, considering that in this case was under a considerable high level support what wonderfull thing could the dwp do, the other one was very similiar except they had sh, again this 5 week wonder was better than a whole mental health team put together. we have to remember the fact that this is not a assessment about anything apart from fitness to work, it does not take into circumstance,ie a person’s background, something from there past that might be dangerous, instances like having seizures or panic attacks for example ignored, then because of such a misguided judgement appointment on a third floor and guess what happens a panic attack, on the first floor, they were not that good that day,so the reality is that these 5 week wonders are not all that great and in making there expert diagnosis when they get it wrong they get it badly wrong and what happens,well the person either sh or killed themselves or even more seriously harmed someone else due to a negligent lack of judgement, who then carries the responsibilty for that, none of them, why, well they say it is causal it was because of the person condition or issues,not the fact that we cut there benefits, sanctioned them, made them feel worse, homeless, in debt,having seen how people deteriorate prior to during and after these medicals and subsequent tribunals including making complaints against the assessor, getting there pathetic letter saying oh naughty boy he made a mistake, not actually doing what happens in a nhs trust where if you did something as incompetent as half what these clowns do you suspended ending investigation or at least be put on warning and supervision, retrospectively in serious cases you also be reported to nmc or the other professional bodies by the trust itself and would probably be at least supervised if found to be a risk, this also brings the profession into disrepute, would you trust a professional who had done assessment’s for the dwp, i would not, highly unlikely, retrospectively ask a trust that, interesting answer there or a service user led interview panel, so what has the government done without actually realising it, made people wary. I know people that are scared to go to there gp,because if there gp say there okay or there condition wont improve they worry that they are going to be reported as being fit, what happens then, well the person’s condition worsens to a point that they do nothing and before long the obvious they have taken up a hospital bed, well done useless dwp, useless assessor and the company that hired them and did nothing, you have just added a bill to a struggling nhs budget and still get away with it, so with this in mind what is a crime

    2. toocomplex4justice

      The DWP staff commit hate crimes all day in the false belief that they are immune from justice. I suspect that the DWP have planned for them to do a lot of dirty work for them while being able to deny all knowledge of methods used. Then once an investigation has revealed the cruelty of the staff they will all be dismissed for gross misconduct and lose their pension which are the real unsustainable expense that needs to be cut

  3. Stewart Bailey

    There’s only one reason I’m now feeling p**sed off is because after my assessment I have been declared fit for work. On the letter I received they have contradicted about 95% of what I told them, what was on the form I’ve filled out and what my mother said to them as she’d come with me as a witness. During the physical examination they said I got onto the examination table with no problems, even though I tried 3 times to do it forward and couldn’t do it so she had to tell me to do it backwards and on my second try managed to do it, as she told me to turn round that is classed as vocal assistance under the law. Then they claimed I could do all the exercises they give me without struggling, even though my mum could see me grimacing an biting my lip from the other side of the room but the assessor couldn’t see it from the other end of the bed???? Also apparently I managed to do something in that room I haven’t managed to do in the 7 an half months before walking in there and seem to have lost that ability again since walking back out, which is being able to put weight on my left foot. Then I was unable to get off the table until she’d fetched my crutches but again on the report it says I managed to get off with no problems or assistance.
    I have now had to claim JSA while I go through the appeals process and had to go to the jobcentre today, even my advisor couldn’t think of anything that I would be able to do with what I have wrong with me and was actually sympathetic as she said she could understand what I was going through as she’d had the same injury as me a few years ago.
    It doesn’t help that I have been stuck on waiting list after waiting list while going through the treatment I’ve been getting so far and need moving forward, as if I had I could of been back at work weeks or even months ago. It’s a real scandal that the government would rather pay these organisations to penalise the sick and disabled, even though it’s been shown that it’s the government, or rather us taxpayers, more than they’re saving off the welfare budget. Maybe if they invested that money in the NHS instead people might actually be able to get the treatment they need when they need it.

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