Just yesterday, respected academics from Oxford and Liverpool universities published an article in an international, peer-reviewed scientific journal.

Their research shows that the reassessment of incapacity benefit claimants for ESA is linked to an additional 590 suicides in England.

It is also implicated in an additional 279,000 people developing mental health conditions and 725,000 more antidepressant prescriptions being issued.

The relationship between the use of the work capability assessment (WCA) and the rise in deaths was clear and the researchers were at pains to rule out other causes.

Any responsible body, even if they were doubtful of the findings, would have responded with concern and given an undertaking to look closely into the matter.

The DWP, however, instantly dismissed the research out-of-hand.

They know that they are the only people who could provide the data to prove beyond any possible doubt that the WCA is a killer. And they are never going to do that.

Instead, just as the tobacco companies argued for so many years that no causal link between smoking and cancer had been proved, the DWP argue that suicide is complex and you can’t definitively prove that the WCA causes any deaths.

And so the entirely avoidable deaths will continue.

And there’s more proof of the DWP’s callous disregard for claimants’ lives. Once again, it is campaigning journalist John Pring who has brought it to light.

In 2010, a coroner sent a ‘prevention of future deaths’ letter to the DWP in relation to a claimant with a mental health condition who had committed suicide after scoring zero points at his WCA. The claimant, Stephen Carre, had a community psychiatric nurse and a psychiatrist but they were never contacted by the DWP.

On receiving such a letter from the coroner, the law requires the recipient to respond within 56 days saying what they are going to do to prevent future deaths.

It now seems that the DWP simply wrote acknowledging receipt of the letter and then did absolutely nothing more, in flagrant breach of the la50 ways to challenge a PIP medical report coverw.

Not only that, they also withheld the fact of the coroner’s letter from Professor Harrington, the independent reviewer of the WCA. If the matter had been brought to his attention, it might have prevented the DWP from pushing ahead with the mass reassessment of all incapacity benefit claimants using the WCA.

And almost 600 people might not have taken their own lives.

Moving on to another flawed assessment process, we have now updated our guide to the Best Possible Ways To Challenge A PIP Medical Report.

The guide includes more than 50 different ways to challenge the contents of your PA4 PIP Consultation Report Form. Many of the challenges include sample texts and just one of them may be enough to persuade a tribunal to attach little or no weight to the health professional’s evidence in your case. The guide has been updated to take account of changes since the last edition, both to the medical report form and to the way that health professionals collect evidence.

Used alongside our sample PA4 report form – released with the last newsletter – we think this is the best tool available anywhere for dissecting and disproving any inaccurate claims that the health professional has used to cast doubt on your claim.

Benefits and Work members can download the updated guide from the PIP page in the members only area of the site.

The DWP have a team of people working to produce an online PIP claim form which will have an entirely different set of questions to the paper claim form.

Online claim forms are much cheaper for the DWP to process and Iain Duncan Smith has just agreed to cut his department’s running costs yet again, probably by over 20%.

It’s left us wondering if the DWP are planning to make claiming online mandatory for almost all PIP claimants. Especially as support is to be made available for claimants who could not complete an online claim without help. Might claimants even be forced to go to their local Jobcentre to claim if they don’t have access to a computer at home?

The DWP are currently looking for people to test their online claim system – though not to make an actual claim, just to try it out. If anyone gets onto the trial programme we’d be fascinated to hear more and see screenshots.

The Benefits and Work Facebook page has now passed 14,000 likes. Our Facebook page gives supporters a chance to discuss in detail issues that don’t always appear on the main site, as well as some that do.

As always, a big thank you to the volunteers at who run our Facebook page for us.

We also have over 7,000 followers on Twitter and we’re always happy to have more.

In our next edition we hope to have a response from the Information Commissioner about our challenge to the DWP’s refusal to give us information about the secret reviews into the deaths of 49 claimants.

We want to know how many of the reviews were into the deaths of ESA claimants who were on the work programme and who also had mental health conditions.

The DWP, unsurprisingly, don’t want to tell us.

Good luck,

Steve Donnison

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