Last month, the Independent carried the horrifying news that between 2007 and 2014, the number of disabled benefit claimants who had attempted to take their own lives had more than doubled from twenty-one percent to forty-three percent:
Ministers were warned in secret reports that DWP (Dept of Work and Pensions) handling of disabled people were heightening the risk of suicides, while a Labour MP claimed in last month that a new parliamentary report ‘blew out of the water’ government claims that its policies were not linked to suicide rates among claimants.
Yet Esther McVey – co-architect with Iain Duncan Smith of DWP policies during her first stint with the department and now heading it in her second – is still a member of the ‘advisory board’ of the Samaritans charity that provides a helpline for people struggling with suicidal thoughts.
The SKWAWKBOX contacted Samaritans to ask how this could possibly be appropriate in the circumstances. A Samaritans spokesperson confirmed that Ms McVey is still on the board and said:
Samaritans’ vision is that fewer people die by suicide and we work with individuals, organisations, politicians and policy makers across the spectrum to help achieve this.
Esther McVey joined Samaritans’ Advisory Board when Chair of the British Transport Police Authority, which is one of the partners we work with to reduce suicides in the rail environment.
Our Advisory Board provides informal support to Samaritans, helping us increase our potential to influence and fundraise. For example, it played a key role in the launch of our 116 123 free to call number, which removed any barrier to calling us in terms of cost, by supporting our work with telecoms companies and funders. The Advisory Board has no legal or governance role in Samaritans and elects its own Chair and members.
Details of the Chair and members of the advisory board can be found here.
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