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*TW* Assessors Are Asking Claimants Why They Haven’t Killed Themselves Yet

March 1, 2017

Several people have claimed that Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) assessors have asked people ‘why haven’t they killed themselves yet?’ The claims suggest this has generally been asked of people who have issues with or a history of mental illness.

It should be pointed out that these assessors work for Atos, which is a private company paid by the DWP. It should also be made clear that these assessors are not in any way mental health professionals who are trained to deal with such complex questions.


Disability rights activist Alice Kirby spoke about her experience on Twitter:



The tweet prompted several people to reply saying that they had experienced the same thing. We have blanked out people’s identities rather than sharing tweets directly. Some of them are still being assessed, and are worried that speaking out may affect their claims:

Alice Kirby

Kirby has released a press statement describing her own experience:

Cuts are costing disabled people their lives, but the assessments themselves can also put us at risk. They are designed to be intrusive and manipulative, and I wanted to raise awareness of that.

When applicants are asked questions like this, we are forced to explain our reasons to stay alive. No one should be expected to do that, especially in such a toxic and unsupportive environment. Assessors do not have the time or skills to explore the answers to this question with us, and they are not able to provide the support which may be needed afterwards.

This question was also completely irrelevant to my assessment, it had no impact on the outcome of my award and it wasn’t even referenced in the report. And so we must question the motives behind it.

These assessments are not safe, people are terrified of going through them, and many are traumatised afterwards. Government need to investigate the assessment process as a matter of urgency, and it needs to explain why questions like this are being asked.


The Canary contacted the DWP about these claims. They advised us to contact Atos, which is the private company that carries out assessments on the DWP’s behalf. Atos replied as follows:

We are unaware of a complaint but we will investigate if one is made. Our role is to provide a well evidenced report based upon information obtained using the criteria laid out by Government. The professional and compassionate service we provide to claimants is our primary consideration.

Similar complaints

This is not the first time that people have complained about DWP assessors asking them why they haven’t committed suicide yet. And if these allegations are true, it’s hard to understand what purpose asking this question would serve. It’s one thing for a trained psychologist to ask such a question. It’s quite another for someone who doesn’t have the training to deal with what could be a very complicated response.

If this is how they are treating some of Britain’s most vulnerable citizens, then we may have more reasons to worry about the DWP than we realised.


9 Comments leave one →
  1. March 1, 2017 10:24 am

    This was a question I was asked at my last PIP assessment

  2. March 1, 2017 1:33 pm

    I wonder what the assessor would do id the reply was “So I could come here today and fecking kill you first as they get up!” Probably run out the door terrified and forgetting to log off as they went.

  3. JEM permalink
    March 2, 2017 8:18 am

    I agree with everything said in the piece. It is wholly unacceptable. I feel so terribly sorry for those who have been asked these sorts of questions.

    When I am reassessed (my transfer from DLA to PIP. My transfer from IB to ESA was done purely by paper, not face to face), I will secretly voice record the interview, and hopefully will be ready for a question like those detailed. I have nothing to lose, my reply would be to refuse to answer it. If the assessor threatened to void the assessment, because I refused to answer, I would tell the assessor about the voice recording and that I would send the recording to all press – and social media – directly the assessor leaves my home.

    There is one section in the piece above that I disagree with. The part where the author states that a psychologist might (be ok to) ask a patient, why haven’t they committed suicide yet, or why did it fail. A good psychologist (in fact any and all good clinicians) would never, ever, ask such a direct question.

  4. Bobgoblin permalink
    March 2, 2017 1:27 pm

    I remember my Dad was asked that by a Community Psychiatric Nurse when assessing his Alzheimer’s. It came across as a suggestion! “Have you tried killing yourself at all?”


  5. john permalink
    March 6, 2017 2:26 am

    samediffrence ‘ iam disabled and have followed your true news stories u write and post for the public an disabled to read for the true horrors the lib dems and torys are doing to the disabled ‘ it was your great news alerts that stated atos will lose the wca ‘ A SHAMBLES OF AN A OVERVIEW OF A SO CALLED ASSESSMENT TO BEGIN WITH” i have evidence on tape recorder, paper ie letters n this is maximus hcp’ staff , management, call centers , saying ‘ WELL WHY HAVE U NOT KILLED YOU SELF” LAUGHING: TOLD ME TO STOP CAUSEING PROPLEMS OR THEY WILL GET THE POLICE ON ME! PHONE PUT DOWN ON ME ABOUGHT 35 TIMES; REFUSEING TO SEND LETTERS ! U WONT BELIEVE WHAT I HAVE ON TAPE : this is all maximus , i have 9 tapes in all i would love to send u my tapes ‘ can we get in contact

  6. john permalink
    March 6, 2017 2:33 am

    the above is the tip of the iceberg u wont believe what they have said n done ,was even secretly followed ‘ honest had to get bt n police abought it this was the manager who told me he dont have any medical certificate or qualifications HONEST I HAVE IT ON TAPE” they even took off there name badges around the neck HONEST ” THREW THE LETTER ON THE FLOOR this was at maximums then got the security guard to kick me and my carer out HONEST “HAVE IT ALL RECORDED

  7. john permalink
    March 6, 2017 2:36 am

    this shocking abuse and discrmanation needs to be told , o we tried to get hold of sue marsh remember sue marsh ‘ well shes head of customer’s and realations but yes u know sue never got back’ no letters either

  8. john permalink
    March 6, 2017 2:38 am

    please get in touch i will send u the infermation to u

  9. March 6, 2017 7:49 am

    I have just received the dreaded Brown Envelope a week ago and finally opened it to find I have to ring them to make a claim as I have a phobia about using telephones so I will have to wait until my helper from the Red Cross has time to come and make the call for me so will have plenty of time to Stress over whether life is worth carrying on with or better to get out of now as Physically I look 100 % fit so if interviewed will no doubt fail I have spent nearly 30 years fighting the urge to end it all most of it working until 2007 when due to a Stroke and getting Epilepsy I had to take early retirement from the job I had for 21 years

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