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.”
“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.”
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