Shadow chancellor backs calls to prosecute Iain Duncan Smith over WCA deaths


Labour’s shadow chancellor has called for Iain Duncan Smith to face criminal charges over allegations that his failure to address a coroner’s concerns about the “fitness for work” test led to the deaths of disabled benefit claimants.

John McDonnell (pictured) made the call during a speech to the TUC Disabled Workers Conference in London on Friday (19 May), and his backing was reportedly greeted with enthusiasm by the audience of disabled trade unionists.

The Scottish-based grassroots group Black Triangle, backed by many other disabled activists, has led calls for the former work and pensions secretary to face a criminal investigation for misconduct in public office following his apparent refusal in 2010 to address a coroner’s concerns about the safety of the discredited work capability assessment (WCA).

They want to hold Duncan Smith and his former employment minister Chris Grayling to account in court for their failure to improve the safety of the WCA, even though they were warned that it risked causing further deaths.

Scottish police are currently assessing whether to launch a criminal investigation, after an approach from Black Triangle’s co-founder John McArdle.

McDonnell backed the efforts of Black Triangle on Friday, and later confirmed his position to Disability News Service through a spokeswoman, who said: “Black Triangle are taking action against Iain Duncan Smith and what he said [at the conference]was that he would support that action.”

Just hours after McDonnell made his speech, the conference voted to send a motion it had unanimously approved – calling for the WCA to be scrapped and replaced “by a fair and humane process” – to the TUC’s annual congress in September, selecting it out of 22 motions discussed by delegates during the two-day conference.

The WCA motion, proposed by the Communication Workers Union (CWU), refers to government-funded research which concluded last November that the programme to reassess people claiming incapacity benefit through the WCA could have caused 590 suicides in just three years.

It also highlights the letter written to the Department for Work and Pensions in 2014 by coroner Mary Hassell, following an inquest into the death of a north London man, which found that his decision to take his own life had been triggered by being found fit for work.

The motion says: “Conference believes that enough is enough and that the time has come for action before more lives are lost.

“The DWP and government have been brought into disrepute and must be held to account.”

Jonathan Bellshaw, the CWU delegate who proposed the motion, told the conference that there was “damning evidence” of the links between suicides and the WCA.

He said: “One death linked to the WCA is one too much. 590 deaths… shows a government not fit for purpose.

“In some countries, that would be cause for a government to be removed by a vote of no confidence.

“Here in the UK, the government continues to ignore all this and ignores clear evidence that their policies are killing people. That’s the truth.”

Another delegate, Hilary Mellor, from Unison, added: “The fact that several hundred suicides have been linked to the WCA is totally unacceptable, unjustifiable and immoral. It is imperative that we stand together to fight this injustice.”

McArdle said after the conference that securing McDonnell’s support for a prosecution was “absolutely amazing”.

He said: “We warmly welcome the support of the shadow chancellor John McDonnell.

“John has been an outstanding supporter of the disabled people’s movement, especially since the foundation of the Black Triangle campaign and Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) in 2010.

“We believe the reason he is able to stand by us is because our complaint to Police Scotland is soundly founded in law.”

Linda Burnip, co-founder of DPAC, said: “DPAC are delighted that John McDonnell fully supports Black Triangle’s attempts to bring Iain Duncan Smith and Chris Grayling to account for their failure to act when the deaths of thousands of disabled claimants could have been avoided.”

Meanwhile, SNP MP Deidre Brock has told ministers during a House of Commons debate that they should listen to Black Triangle, and that its attempt to bring Duncan Smith and Grayling to court could “commend the ingredients of the government’s poisoned chalice to their own lips”, which she said would be “even-handed justice”.

Disabled activists have also welcomed the decision of the Cannes film festival jury to award its Palme d’Or award for best film to Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake, which follows a man who is found fit for work through a WCA after a heart attack, but faces destitution because he is too ill to work.

Black Triangle – including its medical adviser Dr Stephen Carty – advised scriptwriter Paul Laverty on the WCA and how DWP’s sanctions system works.

McArdle said: “I can only say we feel absolutely elated that it has won to such enormous fanfare. 

“This is going to break hearts of stone and will – without any doubt – change minds and direct hearts towards our cause with empathy and compassion.

“It is a magnificent win for all of us in our collective movement for justice and respect for our fundamental human rights.”

  • User Ratings (71 Votes)
  • PageMonster

    At the very least, it amounts to corporate manslaughter. At most, they should be taken to the International Criminal Court to face trial for crimes.against humanity. The sheer number of victims would place them amongst the worst genocides killers in history.

    • Shaun McGrath

      Totally concur with your scathing assessment. Heads must roll and justice seen to be done. Anything less would be a grievous insult to those, past and present, for whom the WCA has meant unimaginable suffering.

  • Shaun McGrath

    Where Debbie Abrahams’ fears to tread, other, more conscientious and courageous individuals stride purposefully forward.

  • Shaun McGrath

    Looking forward to seeing how Abrahams’ squares this unambiguous response from John McDonnell with her now legendary stonewalling.

  • Autism Mandate

    He thinks he’s slipped the net. It was so easy for him to con the “hard working families ” voters who sleep walked into his pernicious scam. It was so easy for him to persecute the vulnerable and deny them legal aid. It was so easy for him to give steer to Local Authorities to fetter the Care Act, Autism Act, Mental Capacity Act, Mental Health Act in order to cut funding and refuse to meet needs. Now its not going to be so easy, in fact its going to be tough, its punishment and pay back time.

  • Autism Mandate

    He is probably one of the most dangerously insidious items in the world. He should be sent to the Hague for crimes against humanity.

    • Bob Hill

      He should be sent to the nearest canal wrapped in chains…and thrown in murdering rat

  • Maria Jacob

    shortly before IDS resigned, he said “why should the government be responsible for disabled people and keeping disabled out of poverty, it is up to disabled people with the governments help to get a job “, he also said ” lets face it the conservatives will never get into power again after this ” did he resign, or was he made to ,given the remark he made, not about disabled shouldnt expect the government to help, no the remark where he said the conservatives will never get in power again.He was saying to much ,give him enough rope.

    • Leo Redpath

      The Tory’s scrapped Rehabilitation Centre’s and Skill Centres which were an effective path to help People who had undergone major Illness or Trauma or with Severe Disability, to Properly assess capability and go on to Skill Centre courses as a stepping stone to full employment – They also scrapped Remploy providing supported employment to people with needs.

  • Shaun McGrath
  • Shaun McGrath
  • PaD

    Yes and its now time to charge many more..
    1st up SIR David Nicholson for his part in MidStaffs..scores if not hundreds died in filth squalor and great pain.
    ANY councillor or MP of ANY party who had even an inkling of what was going on in Rotherham for nearly 20years

  • paulus

    Evidence is only of practical use if collated and used to prosecute. No one (other than black triangle) is moving to prosecute these monsters for their malfeasant crimes.

    Labour (third way) prior to Corbyns leadership… Were for austerity & for WCA’s… Labours 2015 election manifesto promised to simply “tweak” WCA’s that are designed to cure a percentage of all ills with the wave of an Atos tick box profiteers wand, a Government/Freud manufactured wand engineered to disregard all negative physical/mental individual factors, in favour of irrelevant (to individual capability) one size is normal… positive tick boxes.

    Labour are linked to Tory misconduct via Freud, who devised fraudulent WCA’s using Norms designed specifically to disenfranchise ill & disabled.

    Boswell 9 Jan 2007 : Column 168-9 http://www dot publications dot parliament dot uk/pa/cm200607/cmhansrd/cm070109/debtext/70109-0006.htm …

    • paulus

      What Lord Boswell said in regards Norms can be used to prove these monsters (plural) understood the dire repercussion of using Norms in WCA’s. Proof of Culpability.

    • Mwxxx .

      > No one (other than black triangle) is moving to prosecute these
      > monsters for their malfeasant crimes.

      “No one”… really?
      Checkout my little blog – phobosanddeimos dot net

      Especially my last post.
      Labour are also linked (at the hip and in their wallet) to a union called Unison.

      Did you know that a lot of atos/maximus quacks are Unison members? (see my blog)
      And that atos/maximus union Unison even has an office ***at my local police headquarters*** ?!!! (see my blog)

      Now you know why none of the deaths, or any of their other crimes, get investigated.


      Why is black triangle only going after Duncan Smith and Chris Grayling? That “are you a racist” referendum is coming up… Who are two of the main ‘leave’ supporters?

      I hope that black triangle are still blowing their little bit of hot air *after* that vote. And that this isn’t just a bit of political point scoring.

    • Mwxxx .

      And if (hopefully) black triangle are for real about doing this then I’m sure that they would be interested to know that…

      Atos/Maximus quacks union Unison has an office at Edinburgh Police Headquarters –

      Lothian & Borders Police
      (Ro – Jim McNeil)
      Margaret O’Neill
      C/o Police Headquarters
      Fettes Avenue
      EH4 1RB
      0131 311 3089 (UNISON Office & Fax No)

      And checkout this website – unisonpolicestaffscotland dot org

      No chance of a cover-up there then

  • Let’s Reclaim Labour

    A real Labour shadow chancellor in action! Keep it up John!