Victory for mental health activists as Esther McVey stands down from Samaritans Advisory Board

Furore erupted last week when it was confirmed that McVey, whose benefits sanctions policy has been blamed for suicides among claimants, was part of the advisory board of a charity that offers a listening ear to suicidal people. Now Work and Pensions Secretary, Esther McVey has been instrumental in the welfare reforms,  which the United Nations say caused a ‘human catastrophe’. As Disability Minister under the Coalition, McVey introduced the sanctions policy which has been connected to a rise in suicides among benefit recipients who were facing destitution. Her presence on the Advisory Board of the Samaritans struck the mental health community as not only illogical, but deeply unethical. Activists sprung into action, from writing to expressing outrage on social media, until McVey finally stood down – as announced by Psychologist Dr Jay Watts on Twitter on 2 February 2018.

NSUN’s Stephanie Taylor King was among those who protested McVey’s involvement with the Samaritans, along with a strong group of lobbyists including Recovery In the Bin, DPAC and the Mental Health Resistance Network.

After the government backed down in the RF PIP court case, this is another big victory for mental health survivors, even if, sadly, it cannot heal the pain of those who lost someone to a suicide triggered by the welfare reforms.