Benefits assessment led to woman’s suicide says watchdog

The way a woman was assessed for benefits led to her suicide less than a month later, according to a mental health watchdog.

The woman had a history of depression and was on significant medication, but scored zero points in a Work Capability Assessment (WCA), carried out by Atos.

A Mental Welfare Commission report said it could see no other factor “in her decision to end her life”.

The Department for Work and Pensions said correct procedures were followed.

The woman, who is identified only as Miss DE, was in her early 50s and had been out of work for just under two years due to stress-related depression when she was assessed for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). ESA replaced incapacity benefit as part of changes to the benefits system, introduced by the UK government in 2007.

Miss DE did not receive a self-assessment questionnaire and no evidence was requested from her psychiatrist or GP.

The doctor who conducted the hour-long assessment for Atos, on behalf of the DWP, concluded that Miss DE showed “no evidence that she has a significant disability of mental health function” and she was notified by letter that she had scored zero points in the assessment on 9 December 2011.

When a welfare rights officer informed Miss DE that this would mean her £94.25 per week incapacity benefit would be reduced to a Jobseekers Allowance of £67.50 per week she became very upset and said she did not know how she was going to pay her mortgage.

She took an overdose on New Year’s Eve.

“This lady had a lot to look forward to,” said the chief executive of the MWC, Dr Donald Lyons. “She was getting married. She was being treated. She was undertaking voluntary work. She had a good social network. There wasn’t anything else which we could identify that would lead us to believe that there was any other factor in her life that resulted in her decision to end her life.”

When a DWP representative analysed the process, he told the MWC that the steps taken showed “nothing untoward.”

The MWC said a survey of psychiatrists conducted as part of its investigation found that 13% reported that at least one of their patients had attempted suicide as a result of the assessment process.

A total of 75% said they had not been asked by the DWP or Atos to take part in benefit assessments, although the majority said their patients had asked them to provide medical evidence.  About 85% of the psychiatrists said that the benefits assessment had led to patients needing more frequent appointments.

read the rest of this article by Eleanor Bradford on the BBC Scotland website here:


9 thoughts on “Benefits assessment led to woman’s suicide says watchdog

  1. Reblogged this on Beastrabban’s Weblog and commented:
    This is another terrible example of a vulnerable person driven to take their own life after being thrown off benefits by Atos, to add to the growing list of many thousand of such victims. And according to Private Eye, what Atos have done and are doing is illegal. The article is valuable for the statistics it gives: 13 per cent of psychiatrists polled responded that at least one of their patients had tried to end their lives due to the pressure of the assessments. 85 per cent of psychiatrists said that these assessments had led to their patients needing to be treated more frequently.

    Private Eye reported a similar case about a year ago, of a young woman, who had already been sectioned for suicidal tendencies. She then attempted to take her own life following an assessment by Atos that concluded that she was fit for work. According to the Eye, Atos’ conduct was illegal. Under mental health legislation, a sufferer may not be required to go through further assessments if this will make their condition worse. We’re back to the stipulation in the old Hyppocratic Oath: First do no harm, which really should be a no-brainer for anyone in the medical profession.

    But not, it seems, for Atos or the DWP. If the representative of the DWP states that the process, which led to this poor woman’s suicide was ‘nothing untoward’, then it shows that the whole process is seriously wrong, and needs to be discontinued immediately.

  2. So, are these swine going to be questioned by police on suspicion of culpable manslaughter? If not why not? I wonder if a group of us on this site could make a formal complaint? With of course any family consent.

  3. So basically, Miss DE had everything going for her until she was scored zero points in her WCA, but you can bet that the Department of Wankers and Pricks will point to the fact that she was being treated for depression and say, “‘Nuff said.”

  4. Pingback: Where we are — and a shout out to @CharitySANE @MindCharity and @Rethink_ #MentalHealthSafetyNet | 5 Quid for Life

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