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24 September 2013

Content Warning: Suicide
The death of Michael O’Sullivan after being found fit for work.

What: Michael O’Sullivan takes his own life after being found fit for work and ineligible for ESA. He had been claiming incapacity benefit since 2000, due to depression, social anxiety, agoraphobia, and general anxiety disorder that had gradually worsened since he first moved to London from rural Ireland at the age of 19. He had been told in March 2012 he would be reassessed for ESA. He was assessed in August 2012 by a young physiotherapist, an assessment that lasted just 12 minutes and left him “humiliated, mortified, and feeling like a criminal”. He was declared fit for work, and although he asked DWP to reconsider that decision, that appeal was turned down. He was told to attend a two-week training course but was constantly mocked, harassed and teased by the other, much younger, students. At the end of the first week, he tried to end his own life. He survived, and was deemed “unfit for work” by his GP for six months, but was called for another WCA just four months later. His assessor, a former orthopaedic surgeon who had been working for Atos for 15 years, took just 31 minutes to assess him, and only a further 11 minutes to complete the paperwork. He had made it clear on the pre-assessment ESA50 form that he had suicidal thoughts. He took his own life on 24 September, just hours before he was due to start a four-week job placement.

Why significant: The case would receive national attention two years later due to the coroner at his inquest ruling that the trigger for his decision to take his life had been his assessment as fit for work, and issuing a prevention of future deaths report, just as the coroner had in 2010 following the death of Stephen Carré. The PFD would be hugely influential in proving that ministers had failed to make the changes necessary following the death of Stephen Carré in January 2010.


'Michael O’Sullivan scandal: DWP twice pushed dad-of-two to suicide bids', Pring, 2015