A group of charities are calling for an independent inquiry into the deaths of vulnerable people who rely on support from the welfare system.
The campaign by Rethink Mental Illness is backed by 21 charities and mental health organisations, including Mind, Liberty and the Trussell Trust.
Rethink Mental Illness has also written to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions expressing deep concern about the welfare of vulnerable benefits claimants, following the emergence of evidence that people are being pushed to breaking point from their experience in the welfare system.
In many of the cases which have emerged, mental health appears to be a significant factor, the charity said.
A recent report by the National Audit Office showed the Department for Work and Pensions investigated 69 instances where people receiving benefits have taken their own lives since 2014-15, but suggested it is very likely there are more cases that could have been investigated.
The DWP has investigated 69 instances where people receiving benefits have taken their own lives since 2014-15 – and more cases are expected
Source: National Audit Office
“As organisations that work with people who need support from the benefit system, we are deeply concerned that some of the policies and processes of the Department for Work and Pensions appear linked to avoidable deaths,” the joint statement reads.
It warned that the circumstances of these deaths need to be properly understood before the government begins a “managed migration” of people from the current sickness benefit – Employment and Support Allowance – to Universal Credit.
Mark Winstanley, chief executive of Rethink Mental Illness, said: “In a system that is supposed to support people, something is going badly wrong if people feel pushed to breaking point.”