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First coroner’s report to link work capability assessment (WCA) with the death of a person claiming benefits – Michael O’Sullivan.

What: Disability News Service (DNS) uncovers a report, written by the senior coroner for inner north London, Mary Hassell, on 13 January 2014, which concludes that “the trigger” for the suicide of Michael O’Sullivan [see 7 January 2014] was his being found fit for work by DWP. Hassell sends a prevention of future deaths (PFD) report to DWP. It is the first such report to be uncovered, although DNS would soon unearth the PFD report written in April 2010 following the death of Stephen Carré. In its response to the coroner’s report, DWP says: “While the Department is committed to continuously improving processes for this group wherever possible, with such a large numbers [sic] of people involved in this system there will inevitably be instances where processes are not conducted in line with the stated policy… It remains important to retain a balance between the added value of further evidence in any claim for ESA and time demands on GPs and other healthcare professionals.”

Why significant: The report proved important both because it led to significant coverage by the mainstream media, but also because it was further evidence linking the failure to seek further medical evidence with the deaths of claimants. The similarities with Stephen Carré’s case were striking. Together, the two PFD reports show systemic failures and a DWP refusal to make the WCA process safe and therefore save lives.


'Coroner’s ‘ground-breaking’ verdict: Suicide was ‘triggered’ by ‘fit for work’ test', Pring, 2015
'Regulation 28: Prevention of Future Deaths report'