Socialist Worker

It's official - benefit cuts to blame for man’s suicide

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2472

Protesting against Maximus

Protesting against Maximus (Pic: Guy Smallman)

The decision to stop severely ill Michael O’Sullivan’s benefits led directly to his death, a coroner has ruled.

He hanged himself in 2013 after one of the government’s notorious Work Capability Assessment (WCA) tests found him “fit for work”.

His GP had certified him as unable to work. Three doctors had given the opinion that he suffered recurring depression.

Disability rights campaigners have exposed dozens of deaths that WCA decisions appear to have caused or contributed to—either by driving people to suicide or aggravating their conditions.

This is this first coroner’s decision that directly blames the WCA for a death. Senior coroner Mary Hassell was so concerned she warned the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) that more people would die if the system wasn’t changed.

She wrote, “I found that the trigger for Mr O’Sullivan’s suicide was his recent assessment. In my opinion, there is a risk that future deaths will occur unless action is taken.”

Since then hated Atos Healthcare, the company responsible for WCAs, has pulled out due to reputational damage. But staff at successor Maximus have spoken out about a bullying atmosphere that pressures them to find as many people fit for work as possible.

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