Jobcentre staff are asking depressed benefits claimants; ‘Why haven’t you killed yourself?’ during their assessment sessions, according to an MP.
As if not having a job or dealing with depression wasn’t hard enough, a committee of MPs were told yesterday, assessors continue to ask these cruel questions while people are ‘curled up crying on the floor’.
The degree of insensitivity put towards the most vulnerable in society became apparent as Labour MP, Ruth George, exposed the disturbing behaviour appearing before the Commons Work and Pensions Committee.
On top of being asked one of the most inappropriate things you can ask someone, the Labour MP told the committee about the actions of Jobcentre staff, The Mirror reports.
Ruth George MP said:
There are people curled up crying on the floor and they’re in assessments.
The assessor will simply not look at them but will repeat questions to them.
Do you think that is an appropriate way to support people with very serious mental health conditions?
The MP was addressing disabilities minister Sarah Newton, who said the behaviour reported was ‘not acceptable at all’ and the DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) ‘want to give people a good customer experience’.
This was not just an isolated incident and the Labour MP pushed on:
One of the standard questions in the Work Capability Assessment for people with serious mental health conditions who’ve had suicidal thoughts is ‘why haven’t you killed yourself then?’.
Do you think that is an appropriate question to assess someone’s capability to work?
Ms Newton said it was ‘really important’ to ask benefit claimants if they were suicidal but admitted: ‘It’s totally unacceptable.’
MPs told the committee how the government was ‘mugging the taxpayer to destroy people’s lives’ after spending more than £700 million a year managing sickness and disability benefits.
The majority of the costs go towards private companies managing the benefits and not to the claimants who get no more than £141 a week.
Labour MP Neil Coyle confronted Ms Newton with the figures, highlighting the £579 million the DWP spent on assessments for Personal Independence Payments (PIP) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
A further £22 million was spent on internal appeals, £103 million on independent appeals and almost £4 million ‘presenting officers’ to attend those meetings.
This is a £700 million-a-year administration system for benefits that are worth between a maximum of £110 and £140 a week.
How is this mugging of the taxpayer that is destroying the lives of thousands of disabled people fair?
Ms Newton defended the system, with the promise to ‘improve’ it, but added ‘I don’t recognise what you say about mugging the taxpayer.’
I’m sure some could relate?
Tim Horner is a sub-editor at UNILAD. He graduated with a BA Journalism from University College Falmouth before most his colleagues were born. A previous editor of adult mags, he now enjoys bringing the tone down in the viral news sector.