Many people, particularly those with existing mental health problems, find the experience of navigating the benefits system difficult and distressing. This can make people more unwell, sometimes to the point where they feel compelled to harm themselves or try to end their lives.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is supposed to conduct an Internal Process Review (IPR) whenever their actions may have played a part in someone dying (such as by suicide) or experiencing ‘serious harm’. The DWP has opened at least 289 IPRs into such cases since 2012. These internal investigations are intended to review processes and practice and identify any recommendations for change where there has been a death or ‘serious harm’ that may be linked to the DWP’s actions.
To explore these issues further, we conducted a survey to find out more about the harm people have experienced as a result of their interactions with the benefits system, and how the DWP responded. This report is based on the responses to that survey and detailed interviews with eight survey respondents.
We are calling on the government to immediately:
1. Establish a full public inquiry into benefit related deaths and cases of serious harm.
2. Set up an independent body to investigate future cases of death or serious harm in the benefits system.