Social Security Benefits: Suicide

Department for Work and Pensions written question – answered on 24th October 2019.

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Photo of Frank Field Frank Field Chair, Work and Pensions Committee, Chair, Work and Pensions Committee

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, with reference to the Answer of 30 September 2019 to Question 290669 on Social Security Benefits: Suicide, if she will place in the Library a copy of the note setting out the (a) (i) reasons and (ii) justifications for that response and (b) full costs of answering that Question.

Photo of Justin Tomlinson Justin Tomlinson The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

The answer of the 30th September to Question 290669 had no separate note, however, in the interests of transparency for information and ease of reference, I can advise that the following points were considered in providing the previous answer:

There is no requirement for a coroner to inform the Department of the outcome of an inquest unless it specifically relates to the Department, for example Reg. 28 Prevention of Future Deaths report. There was no corporate memory for Coroners cases prior to the Coroners Focal Point being set up in 2016. Despite the existence of the Focal Point, we know that Coroners interact with areas of the Department without liaising with the Focal Point nor Legal Services.

When submitting evidence to Inquests, the Department would not necessarily know the inquest related to a suicide as cause is not established at that point.

There is no requirement for Coroners to advise the department of findings of suicide. Communication from Coroners can enter the Department at multiple points. There is therefore no robust central record of these contacts. To establish that we are certain we have all information to answer such questions would require a broad spectrum query to be sent out to the business. Answering the question would require us to contact the multiple possible entry points through which a Coroner can contact the Department. Conduct a thorough search. Collate the information and provide the answer within the limited time allowed by a named day question. This is not possible within the costs laid out in Parliamentary guidance.

The Department takes the welfare of vulnerable clients seriously and where the department is made aware of a suicide of a customer a review is undertaken. This process is being updated and strengthened to further improve how we identify, review and learn from serious cases, including those involving suicide.

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