A vulnerable man in receipt of social security benefits blamed a single Jobcentre advisor for him opting to end his own life, it has been reported.
Martin John Counter, from Bromley, was being investigated by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) over the legality of his claim for Employment Support Allowance (ESA).
The 60-year-old was left unable to work because of ME, psoriasis, and a perforated colon.
He also had arthritis, for which doctors regularly prescribe methotrexate, and had been in a coma for four weeks because of his illnesses.
However, Mr Counter had forgotten to inform the DWP of his ISA savings when he lodged a claim for ESA. This resulted in his ESA being looked at by DWP investigators for potential fraud.
In his suicide note, Mr Counter explains that this error was caused by his health struggles.
“Thank you, [named individual] for putting suicide in my head.
“I know I did not answer that question in my ISA but that was probably due to my post virol syndrome and that Dr G methatremte causing fatigue, exhaustion, lack of concentration.
“There was a breakdown at the face-to-face meeting when I did inform you of the ISA but I thought might be tied to the house.
“I lose concentration when on the phone and work somewhat better face-to-face.
“I never have had a suicidal thought till you for some reason brought it up. Was it a twist of the knife?
“If the ISA had been mentioned I would have stopped the claim, sold the house and moved to probably Eastbourne and invested the £1,500.00 and be on more money the ESA.
“I would have had to sort the house out in ill health to do it.”
He finished by apologising to family and friends.
In a letter to Bromley Jobcentre, his brother Alan writes: “While the reasons for Mr Counter’s decision to take his own life are outside my jurisdiction, I am concerned that his family’s requests for information have not only been addressed but apparently ignored.
“I would be most grateful if you could provide them with all assistance and explanation possible.”
Welcoming an announcement of an inquest into his brother’s death, Alan told the local press: “The Metropolitan Police had previously stated to me that without firm evidence they were unable to investigate further.
“The coroner said from the outset the purpose of the inquest was to determine the who, when and how… but not the cause of why Martin took his life.
“So I am very grateful for his intervention. I did not expect it.
“The police have also offered to raise the matter. I was very impressed with the reaction of everyone who heard what had happened.
“But the DWP has been sitting on the matter for nine months now. If they have done this to me, how many others have they done it to.”
A DWP spokesperson refused to comment on the individual case, but added: “Our deepest sympathies are with Mr Counter’s family.”
If you or someone you know has been affected by the issues raised in this article, the Samaritans can offer individual advice and support by calling 116 123 (UK). Or visit their website at https://www.samaritans.org.
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