A coroner has concluded that Michael O’Sullivan, a man with severe mental health problems, took his own life as a result of being found “fit to work” by a Work Capability Assessment (WCA), according to a news story in The Independent today.
People who have applied for the out-of-work disability benefit Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) undertake a WCA to determine whether or not they are eligible to receive this support.
Mind has issued the following statement in response.
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said:
“We were deeply saddened to hear about the death of Michael O’Sullivan and our thoughts are with his loved ones at this difficult time. Unfortunately, we fear that this is not an isolated case. We have heard from many people who have contemplated and even attempted suicide, in large part due to the stress and uncertainty associated with changes to their benefits.
"The flawed assessment process often results in people getting an outcome which isn’t right for them. In addition, the punitive approach, which often involves threats and sanctions being imposed on people who are often already vulnerable due to their mental health and other disabilities, can create further anxiety. In some cases, there can be disastrous consequences.
“The Department for Work and Pensions needs to consider the impact that their actions are having on some of the most unwell and impoverished in society; as well as the huge financial implications for the NHS and crisis services. We need to see more tailored support to help people back into appropriate paid employment when they are ready, and regular clear, transparent and non-threatening communication about changes to benefits.
"We have long been calling for an assessment which recognises the impact a mental health problem can have on someone’s ability to work, and assessors who have expertise in mental health involved in the process used to decide whether or not someone is eligible for benefits.”