By Argotina Schmirgle of KwugOriginally published on 13 June on Benefit Tales blog as
Many people whose benefits have been stopped have serious health conditions, so of course more are dying, admits DWP
Yet again Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has blocked the publication of statistics showing how many people have died within six weeks of having their benefits stopped.These figures were routinely published until 2012, when this government’s Welfare Reform Act started to bite. Since then the DWP has steadfastly refused to publish new statistics, saying:
- They were too expensive to gather and:
- That so many people requested the figures that the requests themselves were ‘vexatious’ and could therefore be ignored.
Now the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), an independent authority set up to uphold public information rights, has agreed that there is no reason not to publish the figures. And yet again the DWP is trying to wriggle out.
What struck me most in this article from the Huffington Post was this warning from the DWP:
“The DWP warned it was irresponsible to suggest a causal link between the death of an individual and their benefit claim, and that mortality rates among people with serious health conditions are likely to be higher than those among the general population.”(1)
Well, The system of disability assessments was supposed to sort out who needs disability benefits. The DWP’s warning demonstrates that they don’t see people with serious health conditions who are more likely to die as being in need of benefits. And if they are being kicked off their benefits and then dying, that’s just fine as long as the Tories can dodge publishing the figures..
The DWP takes its orders from the Conservative Government. And David Cameron and his ministers appear to be completely at ease with the idea of stripping seriously ill people of their benefits and them subsequently dying. If those people die, well, they were more likely to die anyway.
I read over and over again in comments here and elsewhere on the net of people who have been thrown off disability benefits as ‘fit to work’, but cannot then get unemployment benefits because the Job Centre deems them ‘Unfit to work’. I’m personally trying to help 2 people in this exact situation right now. As a result of losing their sickness benefits and having no income, both have been hit by a spiral of depression which made it impossible to appeal against the decision in the one month time slot allowed by the DWP.
More than 18,000 people have signed a Change.org petition in under a week after the DWP appealed a decision to release the sensitive figures
I can’t leave this topic without mentioning the tireless campaigning to get these figures several years by John Pring of the Disability News Service.(3) If the government is pushed into a corner it can’t wriggle out of and forced to release these figures, it will largely be thanks to John.
Notes(1) Huffington Post: DWP Block Release of Figures on Number of People Dying After Benefits Stopped. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/06/11/statistics-refused-benefits-death_n_7561918.html
(2) Change.org petition: Publish the statistics showing how many people have died after their benefits were stopped. https://www.change.org/p/hm-courts-and-tribunal-service-publish-stats-showing-how-many-people-have-died-after-their-benefits-stopped
(3) Disability News Service: http://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/