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DR UK welcomes NAO investigation of suicide monitoring of welfare benefit claimants

23 October 2019

The National Audit Office (NAO) is to investigate the Government’s monitoring of suicides among benefit claimants amid concerns about links between welfare reforms and declining mental health.

The watchdog said it would call on the DWP to reveal what information it held on the issue, after Ministers refused to provide an MP with figures on the number of people in the welfare system who had taken their own lives.

It comes as DPOs like DR UK and disability charities raise concerns about links between welfare reforms and declining mental health among claimants, with an increasing number of self-inflicted deaths being associated with financial difficulties stemming from cuts to support.

Several studies have established links between the welfare benefit system and suicide risk. For example:

Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee Frank Field MP, who requested the data from ministers in a written question, said in his subsequent letter to the NAO:

“I struggle to believe that, given the time it must take to put together evidence for inquests, attend court hearings, and internally review the decisions, that there is no record of such.

It shocks me even more that the DWP is apparently unconcerned with the most drastic efforts of its policies and conducts no internal monitoring of the tragedies in which it is complicit.”

The CEO of DR UK Kamran Mallick, from Disability Rights UK, said: 

“This is a crucial issue which demands a thorough review. The welfare benefits system is confusing and challenging to navigate at the best of times.

The causes of suicide are complex and multi-layered. But there’s no doubt that few disabled people find the benefits system welcoming and supportive, and for some it induces high levels of mental and emotional distress.”

For more information see Watchdog to investigate suicide monitoring of benefit claimants after Ministers refuse to publish data available @ www.independent.co.uk

See also DR UK supporting the Justice for Jodey Whiting campaign.