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DWP destroyed reports into claimants who committed suicide after their benefits were stopped

27 February 2020

The DWP has been accused of “a cover-up” after destroying reports into suicides linked to benefits being stopped, reports independent.co.uk.

Around 50 reviews into deaths following the loss of social security payments before 2015 have been shredded, officials have admitted – blaming data protection laws.

However, the data watchdog has said there was no requirement to destroy the reports by any particular date and that a “public interest” exemption could have been used.

Linda Cooksey, the sister of Tim Salter, a benefit claimant who killed himself soon after his benefits were stopped in 2013, accused the DWP of “trying to cover up” what was happening to “vulnerable” people:

“We should be allowed to find out what happened? Why would they want to destroy them? What are they hiding?” Linda Cooksey asked.

Stephen Timms, the Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, agreed it was a possible cover-up, saying:

“I’m very sympathetic with that view.”

On the DWP claim that data rules required the destruction of old investigations, Mr. Timms said:

“The law does not specify five years or six years and this kind of information should be held for longer

In any case, the lessons learned from these reviews, there’s no reason why they should be destroyed. They should be kept and progress on implementing improvements monitored.”

A National Audit Office (NAO) report published this month concluded that it is “highly unlikely” that the 69 claimant deaths the DWP has investigated represent the number of cases it could have investigated in the past six years as:

“The Department does not have a robust record of all contact from coroners. Prior to 2016, when the Department established its coroner focal point, there was no single, clear route for coroners to contact the Department.”

The NAO also highlighted that here was no systematic tracking or monitoring of the lessons that emerge from the reviews:

“As a result, the department does not know whether the suggested improvements are implemented.”This week, Debbie Abrahams MP fought back tears in the Commons as she read out a list of 24 people who died after problems with their benefits.

On the 69 DWP reviews since 2015, she told ministers:“This is just the tip of the iceberg. We do not even know the actual number of people who have taken their own life as a result of what they went through.”

Ken Butler DR UK’s Welfare Rights and Policy Adviser said:

"Linda Cooksey and the family of other deceased claimants have been fighting for years for copies of the DWP reviews in to their deaths to be sent to theThey should have been sent as a matter of basic human decency for the families to see what factors may have left to their loved ones taking their own lives.

If they had been sent, then copies of their conclusions and recommendations would exist that could hold the DWP to account in terms of lessons needed to be learnt and changes implemented.

That these reviews were destroyed and with the DWP not monitoring if their recommendations were implemented is yet a further example of why disabled people have lost trust with the DWP.” 

For more information see Cover-up': DWP destroyed reports into people who killed themselves after benefits were stopped @ independent.co.uk

See also Disabled man starved to death after DWP wrongly stopped his benefits @ disabilityrightsuk.org