26 March 2014
The Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland
has recently conducted an investigation around the new benefits
We investigated the case of a woman who tragically took her own
life in December 2011. She had recently had a work capability
assessment following which the Department for Work and Pensions
(DWP) decided her benefits were going to be reduced. She was on
incapacity benefit and was told she would not be able to be
transferred to Employment and Support Allowance so would receive
Ms DE was a woman in her fifties who had worked for most of her
life but had been experiencing mental and physical health issues so
was signed off work and receiving incapacity benefit. She intended
to return to work when she was able to. Ms DE had a teenage son and
was engaged and planning to get married in 2012. She had been
receiving care and support from her GP and her psychiatrist for
over 20 years. Her doctors had never been worried during this time
about her taking own life.
During our investigation we spoke with people who were involved
with Ms DE's care and treatment. We discussed the case with
relevant officials from the DWP. We also conducted a survey of
psychiatrists to find out how they felt the system was affecting
We found that the decision was made on the basis of an
assessment that contained insufficient information about her mental
health. The work capability assessment needs to be more sensitive
to mental health issues.
We were also disappointed at how the DWP communicated with Ms
DE. We felt that not enough effort was made to contact Ms DE
and this meant she was not given the opportunity to fully engage
with the process. She was not treated as a vulnerable claimant and
so was not given any additional support to help her with the
process around the assessment by the DWP.
George Kappler, Chief Social Work Officer, who Chaired the
'We were asked to investigate the sad case of Ms DE. Our
investigation raised numerous concerning issues about the DWP and
Ms DE should have been supported as a vulnerable claimant.
We found a lack of sensitivity to individual
We thought the assessment process was flawed and needs to
change in order to be fair to individuals with mental health
We feel that these issues would apply to whichever service
provider is doing the assessments so the DWP need to be aware of
this when the contract with Atos ends.
We have been involved in useful discussions with the DWP
about the recommendations we have made in the report and these are
You can find a copy of the full report available
We have received a response from the DWP in relation to our
recommendations and we have made comments on their response. You can find
the response here.