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Linda Wootton, who died just nine days after being told her entitlement for Employment and Support Allowance had been stopped because she was fit for work (she was, in fact, dying on a hospital bed at the time).

Linda Wootton, who died just nine days after being told her entitlement for Employment and Support Allowance had been stopped because she was fit for work (she was, in fact, dying on a hospital bed at the time).

The Department for Work and Pensions has appealed against the ruling compelling it to disclose the number of Incapacity Benefit and ESA claimants who have died between November 2011 and May 2014. 

The ruling came from the Information Commissioner on April 30 after an appeal by Vox Political‘s Mike Sivier. The DWP had 28 calendar days in which to submit an appeal – and it arrived via email at 3.25pm today – just one hour and 35 minutes before the close of business for the day.

Clearly the cowards of Caxton House are terrified of revealing the true numbers of those who have died as a result of Conservative policies towards the sick and disabled, and have delayed their appeal until almost the last minute in order to delay, for as long as possible, the moment when they have to provide the facts.

The appeal itself appears to be nothing more than a rehash of the DWP’s original reasons for refusing This Writer’s request – reasons that were dismissed by the Information Commissioner after Vox Political pointed out that they were not valid.

Therefore the DWP is simply wasting time.

Desperation radiates from the DWP’s appeal. Here’s just one example: “Taken in isolation, the statistics requested by Mr Sivier were likely to be misinterpreted. Specifically, incorrect conclusions were likely to be drawn as to causal links between assessment outcomes and mortality. Such misinterpretations would be contrary to the public interest, particularly given the emotive and sensitive context of mortality statistics.”

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 does not allow any public authority discretion to refuse a request because it fears what a person may or may not do with the information.

If it holds the information, it must communicate it to the person making the request.

It seems reasonable to conclude that the number of deaths – when it is finally revealed – will be devastatingly large.

The behaviour of this government department would be laughable if the subject matter was not so serious – the deaths of many thousands of sick and disabled people, due to the way this department treated them.

But it was only to be expected. This process has taken an extremely long time – nearly two years – because of the DWP’s constant evasions. A little longer won’t make much of a difference, especially as the Tories have managed to con the electorate into letting them play at being the government for another five years.

And the game of cat-and-mouse has nearly run its course. Very soon now, the DWP will have nowhere to hide.

Tick tock, Tory boys.

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