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[Picture: Skwawkbox blog]

[Picture: Skwawkbox blog]

The Department for Work and Pensions has admitted defeat in its attempt to hide the number of people who have died while claiming incapacity benefits since November 2011 – and has announced that the number who died between January that year and February 2014 is a shocking 91,740.

This represents an increase to an average of 99 deaths per day or 692 per week, between the start of December 2011 and the end of February 2014 – compared with 32 deaths per day/222 per week between January and November 2011.

The DWP has strenuously asserted that “any causal effect between benefits and mortality cannot be assumed from these statistics”.

It is correct to make this point.

The DWP has also claimed that “these isolated figures provide limited scope for analysis and nothing can be gained from this publication that would allow the reader to form any judgement as to the effects or impacts of the Work Capability Assessment”.

However, the increase in the frequency of these deaths is enough to raise questions about the way the incapacity benefit system is being run – questions that demand full, frank and immediate answers.

For example, the work-related activity group is composed entirely of people who are expected to recover from their illnesses and be well enough to return to work within a year. In that group, there should be no deaths at all – barring accidents. Why have nearly 10,000 people lost their lives after being assigned there?

Deaths in the support group and the assessment phase are more problematic because they involve people who do have serious illnesses, many of whom may be expected to die while claiming. But are these deaths being hastened artificially by the DWP’s treatment of them?

A statistical release published today (August 27) in response to my Freedom of Information request dating back to May 28, 2014, states that the total number of deaths involving claimants of Incapacity Benefit, Employment and Support Allowance and Severe Disablement Allowance – between the start of December 2011 and the end of February 2014 is 81,140, including 50,580 (ESA claimants) and 30,560 (IB/SDA claimants). All figures are rounded up to the nearest 10.

Add this to the 10,600 deaths that were already known between January and November 2011 and you have 91,740.

Information for ESA claimants shows:

  • 7,540 deaths while claims were being assessed, bringing the known total to 9,740.
  • 7,200 deaths in the work-related activity group, bringing the known total to 8,500.
  • 32,530 deaths in the support group, bringing the known total to 39,630.
  • And 3,320 deaths in which the claimant was not in receipt of any benefit payment and is therefore marked as “unknown”.

The total number of claimants who flowed off ESA, IB or SDA whose date of death was at the same time and of those the number with a WCA decision of “fit for work”, between December 2011 to February 2014 was 2,650 (2,380 ESA, 270 IB/SDA).

And the total number of individuals who flowed off ESA, IB or SDA whose date of death was at the same time with a completed appeal following a WCA decision of “fit for work”, Great Britain: December 2011 to February 2014 was 1,360 (1,340 ESA, 20 IB/SDA).

The new numbers suggest the average number of deaths per day between January 2011 and February 2014 was around 79.5 – 556 per week.

This compares with an average between January and November 2011 of around 32 per day – 222 per week.

This Writer has not yet examined the DWP’s accompanying statistical release – providing the fudged Age-Standardised Mortality Rates between 2003 and 2014. The information in this one states that mortality dropped from 1,111 deaths per 100,000 (across all three benefits) to 1,032.

But claims for Incapacity Benefit (ESA didn’t exist at the time) were at an all-time high in 2003 – of nearly three million throughout the year. The numbers claiming this kind of benefit have both fallen and risen since then.

So what are we to conclude?

Firstly, the figures released today demand more considered, in-depth study than can be managed by This Writer within an hour or so of their release.

Second, that the DWP should drop its appeal against publishing them (for obvious reasons).

Third, that the Age-Standardised Mortality Rates give a false picture of the number of deaths – as predicted on this blog.

Finally, that serious questions must now be asked about the way incapacity benefits are being administered by the Department for Work and Pensions under Iain Duncan Smith.

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