Department has carried out 60 internal reviews following deaths, and campaigners say those cases likely to be tip of the iceberg
The Department for Work and Pensions has been urged by mental health
and disability charities to publish its secret investigations into
suicides that may have some link to benefit changes, following
revelations that it has carried out internal reviews into 60 such cases.
A Freedom of Information request by the Disability News Service
has revealed that the DWP has carried out “60 peer reviews following
the death of a customer” since February 2012. A peer review is triggered
when suicide or alleged suicide is “associated with a DWP activity”,
according to its internal guidance.
Despite growing concern over the way benefits are administered in
relation to vulnerable individuals, and amid a number of reports of
related deaths, the department told the Guardian it had no plans to
publish the reviews.
Disabled People Against the Cuts said that, because of the way the
reviews were carried out, the DWP figure was likely to be the “tip of
Tom Pollard, the policy and campaigns manager at Mind, told the
Guardian the figures were a concern. He stressed that suicide was a
complex problem but added: “It would be helpful for organisations to see
what things could be going wrong in the benefit system that could lead
to these tragic situations.”
Sue Bott, director of policy and services at Disability Rights UK, said DWP reviews should be transparent.
“There have been allegations and anecdotal evidence for a while that
the benefits regime has tipped people over the edge. It should be looked
into in a transparent way,” Bott said. “This is not just about the
nature of the decision taken as to whether it was right or wrong. It’s
also about the process and there is a lot of concern about the way
benefits are administered.”
The DWP’s latest figures show that sanctions to punish disabled ESA
claimants had risen by 470% in 18 months, from 1,096 in December 2012 to
5,132 in June 2014.
According to DWP figures released as the result of an FoI request,
62% of adverse ESA sanction decisions in the first three months of 2014
were made against people with mental or behavioural problems (9,851 out
The calls for transparency from the DWP come after a number of
reports of the deaths and suicides of vulnerable individuals after
adverse benefit decisions...