MORE than a hundred suicide and self-harm incidents have been recorded at Jobcentres and other benefits providers since 2014, new figures have revealed.

The statistics, obtained by the Daily Mirror through Freedom of Information requests, covers England, Scotland and Wales and was provided by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

It shows the number of so-called “fast track” incidents that must be reported to the DWP, which then carries out an investigation.

One of the categories of the fast track incident is “Suicide/Self harm incident” and, since 2014, there have been at least 104 suicide or self-harm incidents reported by Jobcentres and other DWP providers.

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Figures showed that 94 occurred between 2014 and 2020, between one and four in 2020/21 and at least another ten since then.

The highest number of suicide and self-harm incidents was in 2019/20, when 21 were recorded.

The following year saw the height of the Covid pandemic, with Jobcentre meetings and disability benefit tests suspended and sanctions – where people’s benefits are docked for often minor infringements of the rules or being late for Jobcentre meetings – briefly fell to almost zero.

However, campaigners have pointed out how the figures add to concern over the mental health impact of the benefits system.

Welfare rights campaigner Andy Mitchell told the Mirror: “For people in a conditionality group it is the constant threat of losing your benefits that creates the anxiety.

“Iain Duncan Smith said he wanted Universal Credit to operate in the same way as a job, but for claimants the pressure you feel never stops.

The National: A survey of Universal Credit claimants says they are less likely to form a supportive relationship with Jobcentre staff due to their focus on enforcement (Nick Ansell/PA)

“Work coaches (at Jobcentres) expect you to look for work every day, and the longer it takes the bigger toll it has on your health.

“At least, it did for me. Anxiety and stress builds up and that impacts physical health. In one of the meetings I had with the work coach I made the mistake of saying I try to set aside weekends for family and friends and to switch off.

“She told me that I was a claimant, that we did not have on holidays and that I should be looking for work five hours a day, seven days a week.”

He added that women who suffer from domestic abuse regularly report going to meet their work coach can make them relive those experiences because of the attitude and control they have over their lives.

Mitchell added: “It is a constant grind which quickly has an impact on mental health. When I was sanctioned over Christmas (in 2013), I had a breakdown as I had no money, no electricity and no one to speak to.

“I had no phone credit to call my family and I felt totally isolated. I’ve gone through years of counselling as a result and my physical health plummeted.”

In one case which was reported by the Disability News Service, one “overwhelmed” disabled claimant tried to take his own life by poisoning himself in a Jobcentre, only to be then charged with possessing a chemical weapon in relation to the attempt.

Ayla Ozmen, director of policy and campaigns at anti-poverty charity Z2K, also expressed concern over the figures.

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“These figures are extremely worrying and should lead to a review of the threadbare and punitive benefit system,” they said.

"Unfortunately, however, our fear is that these figures will escalate as a result of upcoming reforms to the system.

"Government plans from next year will mean over one hundred thousand people with mental health conditions that put them or those around them at substantial risk of harm will miss out on support and will be at risk of being sanctioned if they don't engage with the Jobcentre.

“At the moment we can't see how it will be possible to go ahead with these plans without significantly increasing risk."

A DWP spokesman said: “We will always prioritise protecting and safeguarding the most vulnerable, including those who are at serious risk of suicide or self-harm. We are committed to ensuring our welfare system encourages and supports people into work, while providing a vital safety net for those who need it most.”