7 February 2020
What: A publication by the National Audit Office (NAO) reveals that DWP has carried out internal process reviews (IPRs) into 69 suicides of benefit claimants since April 2014 – although it says it is “highly unlikely” that this represents the number of cases it could have investigated. Between 1 April 2019 and 13 November 2019, it carried out 21 IPRs into suicides linked to the benefits system, compared with 13 in the whole of 2018-19. The document also reveals that: The DWP does not have robust records of all contact from coroners, and some contacts may not have resulted in an IPR being initiated; DWP guidance has not always been clear about when a case should be investigated, and not all staff are aware that the guidance exists; there has been no tracking or monitoring of the status of IPR recommendations, and as a result the DWP does not know whether suggested improvements have been implemented; the DWP does not seek to identify trends or themes from IPRs, and so “systematic issues which might have been brought to light through these reviews could be missed”. This confession comes nearly three years after DWP made a similar admission to the information commissioner (see 22 February 2017). The document also highlights measures DWP is taking to improve its processes.
Why significant: Evidence that there is no monitoring of the main mechanism through which DWP claims to learn lessons to prevent future deaths related to benefits.