Former DWP ministers could face police investigation over fit-to-work tests

A complaint was made against Iain Duncan Smith and Chris Grayling

Jon Stone@joncstone
Tuesday 10 May 2016 10:06
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Former Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith
Former Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith

Police in Scotland are assessing whether to launch a criminal investigation into two former DWP ministers’ handling of so-called disability fit-to-work tests.

Disabled activist John McArdle of the Black Triangle campaign lodged a complaint with police in March against Iain Duncan Smith and Chris Grayling, according to the Disability News Service news agency.

He told police in Edinburgh that the two ministers had ignored a coronor’s concerns about the safety of the tests, which are used to judge whether a disabled person receives benefits.

He also produced evidence of suicides he said were related to fitness-to-work tests.

Mr McArdle says the ministers may be guilty of “willful neglect of duty by a public official”, which is a criminal offence.

According to the Crown Prosecution Service, willful neglect “can be the result of a positive act or a failure to act”.

“There must also be an element of knowledge or at least recklessness about the way in which the duty is carried out or neglected,” the CPS explains.

“The test is a subjective one and the public officer must be aware that his/her behaviour is capable of being misconduct.”

A spokesperson for Police Scotland told the Disability News Service: “Police in Edinburgh received a report of misconduct in public office on 23 March 2016.

“The individual who made the complaint has been spoken to and we are awaiting further information to assess this matter and establish what actions are required.”

SNP MP Tommy Sheppard has reportedly written to the chief constable of Police Scotland asking to be kept informed of any investigation.

Angus Robertson questions David Cameron on benefit fraud

Campaigners have long accused the DWP's fit-to-work tests of causing deaths and have pointed to a number of suicides that took place in light of sanctions.

The Department for Work and Pensions said it would not comment on a police matter.

“It is important we make sure that people are receiving the right support, and they are not simply written off to a life on benefits," a spokesperson said.

"The Work Capability Assessment has been improved dramatically since 2008 following a number of reviews, including five independent ones.”

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