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The Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland publishes a report into the death of Ms DE, finding that the process and denial of Employment Support Allowance (ESA) were a major factor in her suicide.

What: The Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland publishes a report – “Who Benefits?” – following an investigation into the death of Ms DE on 31 December 2011. Ms DE (her name has never been publicly released) had been a recipient of incapacity benefit on and off since May 2007. She was caught up in the government’s new reassessment programme of IB claimants. The report concludes: “We were told that based on Ms DE’s original Incapacity Benefit claim it was felt that there was little to suggest that she would meet the criteria for ESA, so a decision was made not to request further medical evidence from either the GP or hospital consultant before the Work Capability Assessment.” She was found ineligible for ESA. The commission’s chief executive later tells Disability News Service: “Unquestionably, the process and the denial of ESA were certainly at least a major factor in her decision to take her own life.” Among the report’s 12 recommendations for DWP, it says: “We heard that psychiatrists and GPs are not routinely asked to provide medical reports for patients with a mental illness. This is despite the fact that it may be more difficult for some individuals to put in place the necessary arrangements to provide medical evidence supporting their claim… We think that medical reports should be routinely obtained for individuals with a mental illness, learning disability or related condition entering the assessment process..” The commission had carried out a survey of Scottish psychiatrists to ask them how they thought the WCA had impacted on their patients. Of the 56 who replied and had patients who had undergone a WCA, three-quarters said they had not been asked for their opinion at any point in the process by either Atos or DWP, while 96 per cent said their patients had been “distressed” by the WCA process. Two-fifths had at least one patient who had self-harmed following a WCA – partly as a result of the assessment process or outcome – and 13 per cent stated that at least one patient had attempted to take their own life, partly again as a result of the assessment. More than one-third said that at least one of their patients had been admitted to hospital as a result of the WCA.

Why significant: Another death of a claimant linked to the failure to seek further medical evidence before deciding on ESA eligibility. The commission’s report is the third official report to link this flaw with the suicide of a claimant being put through the WCA, following the PFD reports into the deaths of Stephen Carré and Michael O’Sullivan. See DWP’s responses to each recommendation here:


'The benefits assessment and death of Ms DE'
'Woman killed herself after being stripped of disability benefit, says watchdog', Pring, 2014
'Woman killed herself over benefits cut, says mental health watchdog', Carrell, 2014
MK Together Partnership Safeguarding Adults Review ‘Adult D’ September 2020