Benefit cuts link to deaths | Scottish Socialist Voice

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by Sandra Webster, SSP national co-spokesperson

All deaths impact on the family and friends of the person who has died. Especially so when it is by someone’s own hand. Frequently, suicide is accompanied by the guilt of those left behind while they wonder if they could have helped.

Coroners rarely comment on the reasons for a suicide but for the first time a British coroner laid the blame of Michael O’Sullivan’s suicide at the benefits system that had failed him.

In previous tragedies, the failure of the DWP and the Kafkaesque benefits system has been linked to many people’s deaths but Mary Hassell concluded the trigger for his death was the fitness for work assessment. She raised her concerns that others may face a similar burden to Mr O’Sullivan.

The DWP have admitted that they did not take into account Mr O’Sullivan’s depressive illness and that it was not even part of the notes which formed his fit for work assessment.

They also ignored of the opinions of three health professionals who knew Mr O’Sullivan well including his own GP and consultant psychiatrist.

The DWP stated that suicidal thoughts expressed should be noted but were “regrettably not followed in this case.” Unfortunately, the tragedy of Mr O’Sullivan’s death is not the only one.

Pensioner Malcolm Burge committed suicide after being pursued for a housing benefit payment of only £800. He had worked as a gardener all his life before becoming a full time carer for his elderly parents who suffered ill health.

The coroner in Mr Burge’s case cited he was let down by a bureaucratic nightmare. He was described by family members as a quiet man who did not understand new technology. Rather than sending emails, he sent letters to his local council using carbon paper.

Just a few days after being threatened by court action, he set himself on fire suffering 100 per cent burns and died in hospital shortly after.

Mr Burge had £50 in his bank account and in his final letter wrote to the council told them this. He could see no other way out. Again the council involved has said they have changed their systems to prevent further tragedies.

The fact remains though that the changes in the benefit system are contributing to individuals’ deaths. This is both a human and a societal tragedy.

Iain Duncan Smith may claim in interviews that there is no direct link with benefit reforms but his own department the DWP have instigated 60 internal reviews since 2012 after the suicides of 60 people.

We are talking about humans here not statistics. Disability charities also say 90 people a month have died after being found fit for work by work capability assessments.

The benefit cuts which are having a huge impact on people’s lives is dangerous for your health. It should come with a government health warning. Though this government will see these deaths as nothing more than cold Malthusian mathematics.

Full article at the original source: Benefit cuts link to deaths | Scottish Socialist Voice

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