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ESA sanctions ranked by disability: Notice that mental illness attracts by far the largest number of sanctions. Aren't these the people who are most likely to commit suicide in such circumstances?

ESA sanctions ranked by disability: Notice that mental illness attracts by far the largest number of sanctions. Aren’t these the people who are most likely to commit suicide in such circumstances? [Image: ITV]

The Department for Work and Pensions, last November, released alarming details showing how sanctions against people in the Work-Related Activity Group of Employment and Support Allowance have increased over the past few years. Would you like to see what they showed when compared with the death rates that were published last month?

Of course you would.

In 2011, the number of sanctions was 4,471. We don’t have a death rate for the whole year but can say that between January and November that year, there were 4,003 sanctions and 1,300 deaths.

In 2012, the number of sanctions increased by a massive 184 per cent, to 12,708. The number of deaths more than doubled, to 2,990 (up 130 per cent). There were 545,980 people in the WRAG, meaning an average of one sanction for every 43 people.

In 2013, the number of sanctions increased again, nearly doubling to 22,963 (up 79 per cent on 2012 and a staggering 410 per cent more than in 2011). The number of deaths increased by 24 per cent, to 3,720. The WRAG population had increased to 596,010 (up by nine per cent).

We can see that the proportion of deaths has outstripped the growth of the WRAG, while the number of sanctions has skyrocketed; in the first six months of 2014 the number of sanctions had already passed the total for 2013 and stood at 25,011 by the end of June.

The DWP will say this means nothing.

The Blog says it means serious questions may now be asked about the validity of sanctions and their effect on the health of claimants. Certainly there are mitigating factors, such as the rise in the ESA population due to migration from IB/SDA (but does this actually make the figures any less shocking?) and the fact that the results of mandatory reconsiderations were not included in the sanction figures, meaning they are slightly (but only slightly) higher than the number of sanctions that were actually imposed. Remember, this information has become available shortly after the DWP was revealed to have fabricated testimonies claiming that sanctions actually helped jobseekers back into work – not the same group of people, for sure, but setting a dangerous precedent.

Now we need to know how many people died after a sanction had been imposed, the nature of their illness, and the number of sanctions that had been imposed on them when they died. For clarity, it seems sensible to have that information presented month-by-month, in the same way the DWP’s November 2014 release on sanctions presents its information.

Does anybody have any suggestions that would improve a request for this information?

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