Unbelievable. In the face of allegations that an undertaking given to a coroner in 2014 has never been followed-up with any action, the UK’s Department of Work and Pensions is unable to provide proof that it did.
The undertaking was given to the coroner in the Michael O’Sullivan inquest; one of the 49 peer-reviewed claimant deaths. In it, the DWP undertook to ‘issue a reminder to staff about the guidance related to suicidal ideation that has been described in this report.’ This was a reference to the six-point plan1.
And why can’t the DWP produce evidence that it did so? Well, according to the ministry, its policy is to destroy memos after one year. That means, it says, that no records exist of the reminder it claims it issued.
Is it me? Or does anyone else find it strange, in these days of electronic communication, that not one trace of it still exists. In the USA, former secretary of State Hillary Clinton deleted tens of thousands of emails on her personal server. Deleted but not gone forever as the FBI recovered them.
Even if the DWP memos have gone forever from the ministry itself, does not one member of staff to whom it was allegedly sent not still have a copy?
I have never known any organisation not to keep records longer than a year. To me, such a notion is just ridiculous.
As evidence that they do remind assessors about the six-point plan, the DWP has provided this extract from a memo sent out 18 months after their pledge to the coroner:
“The current filework guidelines are available in the knowledge library. Current version is 10 and it states: “Where there is evidence of a previous suicide attempt, suicidal ideation or self-harm expressed in the ESA50/ESA50A, the HCP [healthcare professional] must request FME [further medical evidence].”
Is that a good enough response? NO. Does that prove the undertaking given to the coroner was ever followed by the promised action? NO, it does not even mention the six-point plan.
Benefits and Work Publishing Ltd (www.benefitsandwork.com) has been leading the fight to get answers as Director and welfare rights campaigner Steve Donnison (pictured) explained: “We have highlighted the link between some of the 49 peer-reviewed claimant deaths and the DWP’s failure to follow its own six-point plan for claimants at risk of suicide.
“We are concerned that the DWP may not have actually carried through on that promise and that some of the 49 deaths might have been prevented if they had. We have repeatedly asked the DWP via the Freedom of Information Act for proof that they issued a reminder.
“The DWP seems to believe that when it comes to claimants losing their lives, it can get away with anything. Establishing the truth is the first step in proving that it can’t – and we aren’t giving up now,” he said.
1 Regrettably, I have been unsuccessful in my attempts to discover that the ‘six-point plan’ actually says. If you know, genuinely, I’d be delighted to hear from you.