Disabled man took own life due to benefits ruling
Cahal Milno writing in The Independent – A coroner concluded for the first time that a man with severe mental illness killed himself as a direct result of being found “fit for work” by the Government’s disability assessors.
Michael O’Sullivan, a 60-year-old father from north London, hung himself after his disability benefits were removed despite the opinion of three doctors that he was suffering from recurrent depression and certified as unable to work by his GP.
Figures released b the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) last month showed that nearly 90 people a month died between 2011 and 2014 after being declared fit for employment following a work capability assessment (WCA).
Ministers insisted the statistics provided no basis for a link to welcome reforms but a coroner has ruled that in the case of Mr O’Sullivan the WCA and anxiety caused to him by its findings were the direct cause of his death. Mary Hassal, senior coroner for Inner London, wrote to the DWP warning that she believed there was a risk of similar future deaths and demanded preventative action.
It is believed to be the first time that a coroner has explicitly blamed suicide on the welfare reforms being spearheaded by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith.
Mr O’sullivan died in 2013. In its 16-page response to the coroner, the DWP admitted that its own “clear policy” that further evidence should be sought when claimants mention suicide was “regrettably not followed in this case” and it was issuing a “reminder” to staff about its guidance.