A 48-year-old, unemployed man set fire to himself outside an unemployment office in Birmingham, England, in an alleged row over his benefit payments.
Eyewitnesses saw the man tie himself to railings outside the Jobcentre Plus in Harborne Lane, Selly Oak, before dousing himself in flammable liquid and setting himself alight. The incident happened at 9.20am local time.
Police rushed to the man’s aid, and managed to extinguish the flames. It is believed the man suffered sever burns to his lower legs.
The Birmingham Mail reports:
One eyewitness, who did not want to be named, said: “The guy came into the Jobcentre with petrol and made threats, so they evacuated the whole building. I think it was something to do with a payment he had not received.
“He tied himself to the railings and tore open the bottom of his trousers. You could smell the fumes from the liquid he used, but the police arrived by the time he had set himself alight and they managed to put him out quite quickly.
“He would have to have been very desperate to have done something like that.
“It’s shocking that somebody could have been driven to those depths.”
A spokeswoman for West Midlands Police said: “Officers were called at around 9.18am to reports that a man had tied himself to railings and was threatening to set himself on fire.
“The man doused himself in liquid and set himself alight.
“Officers extinguished the fire and the man was taken to hospital with burns to his legs. The injuries are not life threatening and the man remains in hospital receiving treatment.”
A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said: “Police were called after an incident today at Selly Oak Jobcentre.
“The office will remain closed for the rest of the day with claimants directed to a neighbouring office.
“It would be inappropriate to say more at this time.”
The DWP has recently issued new guidelines to staff on how to deal with threats of self-harm and suicide from claimants as the squeeze on benefits takes hold.
A leaked memo was sent to all staff in April ahead of cuts to incapacity benefit and disability living allowance.
It details a “new policy for all DWP businesses to help them manage suicide and self-harm declarations from customers”.
The guidelines include a “six-point plan” for staff to follow.
The DWP insist that the new guidelines are not related to any recent policy changes and had been in development since 2009.
The Jobcentre was closed for the rest of the day, and claimants told their benefit payments would be paid directly into their accounts.