A disabled man who swallowed poison in a jobcentre in an attempt to take his own life, after becoming “overwhelmed” by the harmful actions of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), has pleaded guilty to possessing a chemical weapon.
David Rollins had emailed Disability News Service (DNS) earlier that day – 23 June – to say he intended to take his own life, and that he wanted to draw attention to the harm caused by DWP and its assessment providers Maximus and Capita.
He had been waiting for a decision on his personal independence payment (PIP) claim and had also just been told he needed to have a work capability assessment (WCA), and he feared losing both PIP and part of his universal credit.
He has spent the last six months on remand in prison, after recovering from the suicide attempt, but he has now been released on bail before he is sentenced next month.
He had already pleaded guilty to intentionally or recklessly causing a public nuisance, but on Monday, at Leicester Crown Court, he also pleaded guilty to possessing a chemical weapon.
A further charge of developing or producing a chemical weapon will lie on the court’s files.
Rollins, from Orchardson Avenue, Leicester, had told DNS in the 23 June email: “I already know from the experiences of my friends where this is going, and I will not starve to death.”
He added: “The DWP and Capita and Maximus will deny any association with my suicide so this letter is one of the ways I intend to make it clear to them and the public.
“Without the encroaching sense of impending dread caused by the prospect of losing half of an already stretched income I would not be doing this.
“Without a pip and esa assessment either or both of which will destroy the life I have struggled to build I would not be doing this.”
DNS editor John Pring had emailed a response, asking Rollins not to take his own life, and directing him to organisations that could offer support.
Pring then contacted Leicestershire police to ask for an officer to check on his welfare, but by the time they arrived at his flat, Rollins had arrived at Leicester’s Wellington Street jobcentre (pictured), where he took the poison.
He emailed from a hospital bed that evening to say he had taken this action because of the stress of waiting for both his PIP decision and a WCA.
He said he had informed DWP’s universal credit department that he was at high risk of suicide and so should not be put through a WCA – which has been associated with countless suicides since its introduction in 2008 – but “they sent a robot reply and the form anyway”.
He added: “I’m exhausted being a drop in the huge ocean of claimants unfairly refused disability benefits.”
He has told DNS that he was becoming “overwhelmed by the dwp”.
After taking advice, DNS decided not to publish a news story in June*, because of the risk that other disabled people experiencing mental distress caused by DWP would take similar action in the hope of DNS writing about their suicide note after their death.
In his email, Rollins had described his own work over the last 10 years supporting other disabled people with their benefit claims.
He said he had seen an increasing number of benefit appeals reach the tribunal stage over those 10 years that “clearly should not have done so”, mostly because Capita and Maximus assessors had “lied and misled” DWP, while he said DWP’s PIP, employment and support allowance and universal credit departments had “acted openly in tacit agreement, underscoring and zero-ing claimants”.
He said he was tired of seeing friends “forced to survive on almost nothing while they wait even longer than ever for successful Tribunal results”, with a backlog, he said, that meant they would wait a year for their appeal to be heard.
He said one disabled person with cerebral palsy he was supporting had just received a mandatory reconsideration notice from DWP that confirmed his previous PIP award for enhanced daily living and mobility had been removed completely, even though it had previously been awarded by a tribunal.
Rollins said: “I had to tell him we would win at tribunal in a year’s time again.”
He added: “Most of my claimants and friends have fibromyalgia and poor mental health like myself, we all have the same dread of DWP letters, we know that the DWP will dismiss our overwhelming symptoms and multiple diagnosis with a zero across the board outcome.
“This is a drop in the ocean. I am a drop in the ocean.”
DWP declined to comment.
Leicestershire police also declined to comment.
*DNS will not report on suicide notes emailed to the editor by claimants aiming to highlight the harm caused by DWP. This is because of the risk that running such reports could encourage other people in mental distress to take similar action
Picture by Google
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