Investigation after claims Birkenhead man "hanged himself after disability benefits cut"

Liverpool Echo - 02 Jul 2019

An internal investigation has been launched into claims a Birkenhead man hanged himself after his disability benefits were stopped.

Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd has said she is taking the case 'very seriously' and has ordered a DWP review.

The man's case was raised by Frank Field, the MP for Birkenhead, who told the House of Commons that he had already asked Ms Rudd for an inquiry.

He said: "Can I ask the Secretary of State about my constituent who hanged himself shortly after losing his personal independence payment?"

He added: "I wrote to her about it asking whether she would establish an inquiry, whether an inquiry would be independent, whether an inquiry would be headed by somebody who knows something about this area, whether it'd report in three months and whether the inquiry report would then be made public."

Ms Rudd replied: "I take very seriously this case and I do have the letter from (Mr Field).

"At the moment we're doing an internal inquiry and if (Mr Field) will leave that with me, if there's anything additional required I will come and talk to him about it."

Personal Independence Payments are available to people affected by long term ill-health or disability.
Mr Field - now an Independent MP after leaving the Labour Party last year - is the chair of the Parliamentary Work and Pensions committee.

He has been at the forefront of calls for an independent inquiry into the DWP's treatment of Liverpool man Stephen Smith.

Mr Smith, from Kensington, was seriously ill and weighing just six stone when he was forced to leave hospital and fight a tribunal against the department, who had said he was fit to find work.

Just a few months after winning his appeal Mr Smith died.

So far, Ms Rudd has refused to order an independent inquiry into the case.

And while an internal review did find that opportunities to help him were missed - the department said 'policy was followed' as he was repeatedly turned down for benefits.

Liam Thorp, Liverpool Echo