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: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-26740651