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Man’s suicide directly linked to benefit cuts

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​Coroner says man's suicide was a direct result of being found fit for work

A mentally ill man killed himself as a direct result of being found fit for work, a coroner has concluded.

The verdict, announced last year but only just revealed this week, is thought to be the first time a conclusion of suicide has been officially linked to the government’s hugely controversial work capability assessments.

Michael O’Sullivan hanged himself after having his disability stopped despite three doctors saying he suffered depression and his GP saying he couldn’t work.

Mary Hassell, the senior coroner for inner north London, said the 60-year-old father’s long-term problems had been exacerbated by the decision and that most likely led to his suicide.

In a formal finding following Mr O’Sullivan’s inquest in January last year, Hassell said: “His anxiety and depression were long-term problems but the intense anxiety that triggered his suicide was caused by his recent assessment by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) as being fit for work, and his view of the likely consequences of that.”

I found that the trigger for Mr O’Sullivan’s suicide was his recent assessment by a DWP doctor as being fit for work

O’Sullivan died in 2013 but the case has only now come to light after it was revealed by the website Disability News Service.

Last month the DWP was forced to release figures showing that nearly 90 people died every month between 2011 and 2014 after they had been declared fit for employment after undergoing a work capability assessment (WCA).

The coroner outlined further concerns in a separate document, known as a Prevention of Future Deaths report.

She wrote: “I found that the trigger for Mr O’Sullivan’s suicide was his recent assessment by a DWP doctor as being fit for work… in my opinion, there is a risk that future deaths will occur unless action is taken.”

The DWP’s assessing doctor did not take into account the views of any of the doctors treating the 60-year-old when he declared O’Sullivan fit for work, the inquest heard, despite him having an extreme fear of being outdoors.

John McArdle, co-founder of disability rights group Black Triangle, said: “This is the first irrefutable finding from the judiciary that the WCA regime is taking people’s lives.”

The DWP claimed improvements had been made to the system. A spokesman said: “Following reforms to the WCA... people are getting more tailored support to return to work.”

 

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