The parents of a disabled man who took his own life after being wrongly found “fit for work” have backed attempts to persuade Scottish police to investigate the actions of former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith.
David and Maureen Barr have both told Disability News Service (DNS) that Duncan Smith and former employment minister Chris Grayling should be prosecuted over their failure to address serious safety concerns about the work capability assessment (WCA).
Their son, also called David, and also from Fife, was just 28 when he took his own life on 23 August 2013.
Despite his history of significant mental distress, David’s parents believe the healthcare professional who assessed him – employed by the government contractor Atos – failed to contact their son’s GP or his psychiatrist for further information about his mental health.
When questioned afterwards by the Procurator Fiscal’s office – which investigates sudden deaths in Scotland – the assessor claimed he couldn’t remember if he had made any phone calls, according to David’s father.
The Atos assessor completed David’s assessment by concluding, in June 2013: “He reports self harm in the past. He reports he attempted an overdose six weeks ago but he would not say what he took.
“He reports he has had no thoughts of suicide since. The evidence overall suggests that he is not at substantial risk.”
Despite David appealing against the decision that he was fit for work, and telling the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in a letter that he had “serious mental health problems that prevent me from doing everyday tasks which means I cannot work at this moment in time”, the Atos advice was rubber-stamped by DWP decision-makers.
The decision that he was not eligible for employment and support allowance (ESA) was confirmed in a letter to David on 17 July 2013. A month later, he took his own life.
His death is one of three cases contained in a dossier submitted to Police Scotland by disabled activist John McArdle, from the user-led campaign network Black Triangle, in an attempt to persuade the force to open an investigation into Duncan Smith and Grayling.
McArdle wants Police Scotland to investigate the two former ministers for the Scottish criminal offence of wilful neglect of duty by a public official, because they failed to take steps to improve the WCA in 2010 after being warned by a coroner that its flaws risked causing future deaths of people with mental health conditions.
If you are feeling suicidal please, please call the Samaritans on their freefone number 116 123