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Claimants for inactive benefits and the economically inactive – inactivity benefits: This chart shows claimants of Employment and Support Allowance, and Incapacity Benefit (the red dots), compared with survey figures for the economically inactive owing to long-term sickness.

Claimants for inactive benefits and the economically inactive – inactivity benefits: This chart shows claimants of Employment and Support Allowance, and Incapacity Benefit (the red dots), compared with survey figures for the economically inactive owing to long-term sickness.

After all the government’s efforts to kick people off long-term sickness benefits, the number of claimants has risen – but statistics seem unable to account for nearly a quarter of a million people.

Even though Atos and now other private assessors are working hard to meet increased reassessment targets for Incapacity Benefit and Employment and Support Allowance, the government is paying out more money on these benefits – to around two million claimants.

This is a surprise for an administration that has been merrily throwing people off-benefit since it came into office, but it raises an important question: What has happened to those people?

In its January labour market report, the Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion said; “The number of the economically inactive who were long-term sick or disabled rose by 40,000… as did the benefit figure. The rise in the benefit figures shows ‘early estimates’ of benefit numbers.

“The rise in both ESA/IB claimants and in the comparable survey measure is a surprise given continued IB reassessment. The impact of IB reassessment on the total claimant numbers appears to be negligible as yet, although there remains some way to go with assessments and (particularly) appeals. This factor will need to be watched closely.”

You see, the expectation was for the figure to be much lower. We know from the DWP itself that benefit reassessments have been taking place at a rate of 11,000 per week, and the assessors have been finding 68 per cent of claimants ‘fit for work’.

This means that in the last year, the work capability assessment will have found 389,000 people ‘fit for work’ and kicked them off-benefit. Around 40 per cent of them – 155,600 – are likely to have appealed, in which case they will still be on the system.

So the number of claimants would have dropped to 1,806,600. We now have 2 million claimants. Some of them will be brand new; some of them may be re-claims. We don’t know how many.

The fraud rate is 0.7 per cent. Assuming all those people have given up pretending to be sick/disabled, that means 1,634 people correctly had their benefits cut off, while 231,766 were treated unfairly by the assessors

This suggests that a number between 191,766 and 231,766 people have been wrongly knocked off the books. Where are they?

Is there a fault in this logic? Or is this figure the reason the Coalition government, Department for Work and Pensions, and Iain Duncan Smith in particular will not release the mortality figures, showing the number of people who have died within six weeks of assessment/reassessment?

We don’t have enough information to know for sure, but the implications are terrifying.

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