It’s heartening to see that the facts about the DWP’s rules on finding people fit for work are starting to filter out to the general public – who are, in turn, starting to feel outraged.
After the death of David Brown, The Writer even penned a short verse for a song I’m writing (I’m in a band and we’re very political. I know). It goes like this:
Another soul on benefits has died and passed away
But did he fall or was he pushed? The government won’t say
Their rulebook authorised them to procure his suicide
It’s against the law
But they don’t care
And that’s why people die.
Mock it if you like. But I hope the rhyming structure may help people remember what has happened and think about holding the Conservatives to account.
DWP admit in 2016 they still find people fit to work even when holding evidence such a decision may kill the claimant, FoIA request reveals.
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.”
Labour’s Anna Turley MP, standing up for victims of Conservative ‘welfare’ policy in exactly the way some people want you to think Labour doesn’t.
Some readers of This Blog may be unfortunate enough to have witnessed a conversation with a person calling him- or herself ‘Ghost Whistler’ in the comment column of the recent article on Momentum, in which this person has resorted to accusing the Labour Party of complacency in the deaths of benefit claimants. What a despicable distortion.
“Where are the Labour politicians when kids are taking their own lives due to benefit sanctions and DWP bullying?” That’s what this person asked, in a clear reference to the case of David Brown that This Blog covered yesterday (December 7). The implication is, of course, that Labour was complicit in the death.
Clearly this person had failed to do any research at all, as that particular comment was made more than four hours after Labour MP Anna Turley directly challenged the government over that very case, during Prime Minister’s Questions.
She told Leader of the House David Lidington, standing in for Theresa May while she’s off on a junket to sell weapons to Middle East countries: “I know that the whole House will join me in sending heartfelt sympathies and condolences to the family of David Brown, from Eston, who, aged just 18, took his own life.
“The inquest into his death has heard that he did so on the day he was due to sign on at the Job Centre, after saying that he felt ‘belittled’ by staff despite actively looking for work and seeking an apprenticeship. Shortly before taking his own life, he told his mum: ‘The way the Job Centre treat people, it is no surprise people commit suicide.’
“Will the Leader of the House undertake to review that individual case? Will he also undertake to take stock of six years of brutal welfare reform, and look into the way the Department for Work and Pensions treats its most vulnerable constituents, particularly young people?”
If anybody wants to find complacency about this death, they need look no further than Mr Lidington’s reply. After expressing what he described as “unreserved sympathy” for Mr Brown’s family, the Leader of the House contradicted himself thus: “Clearly, human beings in any organisation sometimes make decisions that get things wrong, and I will ask the Department for Work and Pensions to have a look at the particular case that the hon. Lady has described.
“However, I have to say to her that I think the principle remains right that while staff should always behave with courtesy towards people seeking to claim benefits, it is also right for us to expect people who are receiving benefits to be subject to the kind of disciplines that apply to people in work even if they are on low pay. There is a principle of fairness here, which is what lies behind the approach that the DWP takes.”
What’s fair about putting an impressionable young man into the clutches of a woman who clearly had not respect for him at all and from whom he could not demand proper treatment for fear of being removed from the interview by the guards that are now routinely posted at these facilities, his benefit sanctioned on the grounds that his behaviour fell short of the mark?
Who says it is right that jobseekers must be placed under the same pressures as people who are in work? They are not in work. They are seeking work. The two conditions are not that same and it is wrong to pretend that they are.
What will be gained from asking for the DWP to examine the David Brown case individually? This is not an isolated episode. DWP ‘advisers’ are constantly attacking claimants.
Today I read of a young man with severe disabilities that mean he has the mentality of a small child, being called in for a highly-distressing and pointless work capability assessment by the DWP.
The Department later apologised, saying he would not have been invited to an interview if the Job Centre had known the full extent of his condition – a condition for which the same department had been paying benefits for his entire life.
The problem is system-wide. Singling out a single case won’t stop the abuses from happening – unless the DWP intends to give, to the woman who forced David Brown towards suicide, a bonus? That seems far more likely.
The DWP’s response to Mr Brown’s death was an insult to him and everybody else who has died as a result of Conservative ‘welfare’ policy – and, make no mistake, there have been thousands upon thousands; far more than those covered by official statistics, even though they now run into the thousands.
A spokesman said: “Our thoughts are with Mr Brown’s family at this difficult time. Suicide is a very complex issue and there is no evidence of a link between Mr Brown’s suicide and his interaction with Jobcentre Plus.”
That is exactly the same line the DWP always trots out when somebody on benefits commits suicide – in defiance of the facts.
I read that comment on the Channel 4 News Facebook page and was so incensed I penned the following in response: “This is a person who made it clear he was being treated like dirt by a DWP staff member – and actually said, ‘The way the Job Centre treats people, it’s no surprise that people commit suicide’. Then on the day he was due to visit the Job Centre again, he was found dead.
“And the DWP wants us to believe there is no link?
“I’d like to know who made that comment and ask them just what somebody would have to do to get them to accept that there is a link.
“Their comment is an insult – not just to David Brown and his family, but to everybody else who has lost a friend or loved one because of the Conservative Party and its homicidal attitude, and to the public in general who they think they can patronise in this manner.”
All of the above was triggered by a Labour MP’s concern over the death of young man due to his treatment by the benefit system.
But that doesn’t matter because ‘Ghost Whistler’ wants to blame the Labour Party for it.
These deaths aren’t going to stop any time soon – not because Labour isn’t opposing them but because people like ‘Ghost Whistler’ are blaming Labour rather than putting responsibility where it is due, on the Conservatives. ‘Ghost Whistler’ is contributing to the problem, along with anybody else who would rather accuse the wrong people to make some obscure political gesture. This person is such a coward, they won’t even support their words with their own name.
So I’ll tell you what, ‘Ghost Whistler’ – do us all a favour. Take your ill-informed and offensive opinions, take yourself, and take all the other blinkered bigots like you, and toddle off back to whatever slimy hole you call home.
Don’t come out again. Don’t try to infect anybody else with your ignorance. Don’t insult the memory of the dead.
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