DWP staff given suicide guidance ahead of Iain Duncan Smith's welfare reforms

Benefit decisions have previously been linked to suicide cases

Jon Stone
Tuesday 25 August 2015 11:52 BST

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Frontline staff at the Department for Work and Pensions have been given guidance on how to deal with suicidal benefit claimants, it has been reported.

The Sunday Herald newspaper says workers have been handed a six-point plan on how to deal with people denied benefits who appear to be suicidal.

Staff at call centres have been instructed to allow rejected claimants for Universal Credit to talk about their intention to kill themselves.

A DWP spokesman did not deny that the guidance had been handed out, and said: “Our frontline Jobcentre staff work hard every day supporting people to find jobs and it is only right we provide a range of training and guidance to assist them in their work.”

Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary
Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary (LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)

The guidance may be a reaction to suggestions that welfare changes and decisions are increasingly being linked to suicides.

A damning report by MPs released in March of this year found that severe financial hardship caused by benefit cuts was driving people to kill themselves.

The Work and Pensions Select Committee said 40 people had taken their own lives since 2012 because of problems with welfare payments.

Disability campaign group Black Triangle later estimated that as many as 80 suicide cases were directly to benefit cuts.

“If it was a medical trial, it would have been abandoned long ago. So many have died as a direct result of the withdrawal of benefits, as confirmed by numerous coroner's inquests,” John McArdle, co-founder of the group said at the time.

Changes to benefits during Iain Duncan Smith’s tenure at the Department for Work and Pensions have been controversial.

The Work and Pensions Select Committee said there was evidence that sanctions to benefits were geared towards punishing people for being unemployed and might not actually help them find work.

The MPs said there was evidence that the benefit cuts for unemployed people caused more problems than they solved and might be "purely punitive".

Anyone affected by issues in this article can contact Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 or on their website, linked here.

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