Benefits to die for?

I was scrolling through my news feed on Facebook and I came across an article which stated that a coroner had concluded that the DWP work capability assessment was the cause of a claimant’s suicide after it was deemed that he was fit for work.

M O’Sullivan, aged 60, hanged himself in 2012, 6 months after being told he was fit for work and would no longer receive the disability benefits he had been claiming for 10 years, even though he had been diagnosed with severe mental health problems by 3 doctors. He was placed on Jobseekers’ Allowance and had to actively seek employment in order to receive any benefits.

The coroner, Ms Hassell, ruled that the death was caused by the experiences of the work capability assessment (WCA) process. This was revealed after figures were released, stating that 2380 cases of deaths had been reported after victims were told they could return to work and lost their benefits. The figures also showed that between December 2011 and February 2014 the equivalent to 90 people a month had died… Of course the DWP claims no link could be assumed between the deaths and claimants being told they were fit for work.

Hassell issued a letter to the DWP, following O’Sullivan’s inquest, warning that she believed there was a risk of similar deaths occurring in the future and stated that action must be taken in order to prevent this.

The inquest heard that the doctor, employed by Atos Healthcare, who assessed O’Sullivan had not taken the views of the other doctors that were treating the claimant. It was stated that during the assessment the doctor had failed to ask O’Sullivan about any suicidal thoughts, even though this had been mentioned in the DWP questionnaire.
Prior to this O’Sullivan’s GP had ruled him unfit for work, his psychiatrist had diagnosed him with depression and agoraphobia and his clinical psychologist had assessed his as experiencing anxiety and demonstrating signs of clinical depression.

The coroner told sources; “his anxiety and depression were long-term problems but the intense anxiety that triggered his suicide was caused by his recent assessment by the DWP as being fit for work, and his view of the unlikely consequences of that”…

This annoys me. How many people suffer from severe depression and still manage to work? This is an unfortunate case of a genuine claimant who was deemed fit for work when he clearly suffered severe mental health issues, but how many chancers do the Atos specialists see on a daily basis? The people who go to the assessments and feign mental illnesses in order to get out of looking for a job make it harder for genuine cases to be determined and this is the outcome but what can be done about it? Mental illness is virtually impossible to prove as it is not a visible disability/illness and GP’s will only have the word of the patient to go off, making it easy for people to fake it.


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