‘More or Less’ on the ESA deaths: MORE stupidity, LESS accuracy

Inaccurate: This meme - and others like it - provided an inaccurate interpretation of DWP statistics that the Torygraph and the BBC have seized, using them to hide the real issue. Thousands of ESA claimants are still dying every year but the DWP refuses to say how many. Why not? As David Cameron himself has said many times, "If you've nothing to hide, you've nothing to fear."

Inaccurate: This meme – and others like it – provided an inaccurate interpretation of DWP statistics that the Torygraph and the BBC have seized, using them to hide the real issue.
Thousands of ESA claimants are still dying every year but the DWP refuses to say how many. Why not? As David Cameron himself has said many times, “If you’ve nothing to hide, you’ve nothing to fear.”

BBC Radio 4’s More or Less promised a feature on the long-discussed deaths of people claiming Employment and Support Allowance in its programme on Friday – and delivered five minutes of drivel that is an insult to the intelligence of anybody concerned.

As a reporter, I am staggered that the BBC has had the bare-faced cheek to patronise us in this manner.

The feature (which may be downloaded here – it’s the August 29 edition) took as its premise claims made on the social media that 10,600 people have died within six weeks of being declared ‘fit for work’ by Atos assessors.

There are several issues with this. Firstly, this claim is two years out-of-date. Many more are likely to have died since then but the figures are not available because the Department for Work and Pensions has refused to release them. Secondly, the claim is inaccurate, based on a misunderstanding of the DWP statistical release ‘Incapacity Benefits: Deaths of recipients’ published in July 2012.

We already know that the claim was inaccurate. Why is the BBC determined to rake over these old coals?

For the sake of the BBC and anyone else who is similarly hard-of-thinking, let’s go back to what the statistical release actually says.

Officially – according to the DWP – the 10,600 deaths were of people leaving ESA with a recorded date of death, between January and November 2011. The government document made it clear that “data on the number of ESA claimants who have died following a ‘fit for work’ decision is not available, as the Department does not hold information on a death if the person has already left benefit”. Efforts to persuade the DWP to change this policy and follow up ‘fit for work’ decisions by checking on claimants’ health at intervals afterwards have been refused at all times.

Therefore we may safely conclude that the number of deaths of ESA claimants is probably many times greater than official figures suggest.

In the Now and Then piece, the Daily Telegraph‘s Tom Chivers, enlisted to provide some spurious relevance to the show’s finding, said: “The DWP say they don’t keep records of the number of people who died after their benefits were cut off because that’s irrelevant to them; it’s no longer their problem. So we don’t have the full figures.” This is correct.

The trouble is, it is the DWP’s problem – and it’s certainly a problem for the rest of us – because anyone who has died in this way almost certainly did so as a consequence of the loss of their benefit! The news media has been riddled with stories of these people over the last few years, and we can be sure that the volume of known stories is a fraction of the true number of cases.

Back to the statistical release: Of the 10,600, the government said 2,200 died when their assessment had not been completed. This clearly suggests that the assessment process had failed these people – they died before they were able to access the support they needed.

A further 1,300 were in the Work Related Activity group. This suggests that they had been placed in the wrong group and should have been in the Support Group.

Finally, 7,100 were in the Support group. The statistical release states that “those in the Support Group receive unconditional support due to the nature of their illness, which can include degenerative conditions, terminal illness and severe disability”. However, just three paragraphs above, the same release states that the information it provides relates to people “whose latest WCA [work capability assessment] date (or activity towards assessment) was before the end of November 2011”.

This means that people in the Support Group do not receive “unconditional support” at all – they have to undergo periodic reassessment, at irregular intervals (due to the nature of the assessment process – you never know when they’ll get round to you again). This meant that people with degenerative conditions, terminal illness and severe disability are subjected to the stress and anxiety of having to face a flawed assessment system – rigged to find them ‘fit for work’ if at all possible – at any time. Stories in the press about people with terminal cancer (the most famous example) being forced back to work can only have increased this stress, making the possibility of early death more likely.

That is the situation. Now let us examine what the BBC had to say about it.

The More or Less feature is inaccurate from the start.

It states: “In 2011, existing Incapacity Benefit and Income Support claims were replaced with something called Employment and Support Allowance.” In fact, ESA was introduced by the previous Labour government on October 27, 2008 and while IB and IS claims were not migrated until 2011, it would be wrong to think that the deaths under discussion were of the migrated claims in isolation.

“Claimants were made to undergo a Work Capability Assessment to determine whether they were entitled to the new allowance and how much money they might get. Now some critics complain that these assessments are stacked against claimants. Seriously-ill people are being dismissed as malingerers by Atos Healthcare and having their claims denied. And in the middle of this argument, up pops the truly shocking finding that 10,600 people have been cut off from this vital benefit and then died within six weeks.”

Two things: Firstly – THAT IS NOT THE FINDING! See the analysis of the statistical release (above). Secondly – the claim is two years old; it was made when the statistical release was issued back in July 2012 and debunked shortly afterwards. Why is More or Less covering this old news when it could be asking relevant questions?

One has to ask why the programme enlisted help from – of all people – Daily Telegraph blogger Tom Chivers. He published a controversial piece about the Atos deaths on July 9, proceeding from the same – wrong – starting-point as More or Less. His argument is irrelevant because it does not relate to the problem.

In the broadcast, Chivers compounded the error with further inaccuracies: “In July 2012 there was a Freedom of Information request about how many people died within six weeks of their benefit claim ending,” he blithely spouted. WRONG. Here is the request, copied verbatim from the DWP’s statistical release and pasted here:

Information request: Can you please provide me with the number of ESA claimants who have died in 2011?

Can you please break down that number into the following categories:

  • Those who are in the assessment phase
  • Those who have been found fit to work
  • Those who have been placed in the work related activity group
  • Those who have been placed in the support group
  • Those who have an appeal pending

(This is the format I have used in both of my own, subsequent, FoI requests on this matter, and I believe Samuel Miller’s was phrased the same way. The DWP has sidestepped all three.)

There is nothing about any six-week period after the claim ended. The request is about ESA claimants who died during 2011 – no more, no less.

Chivers accurately quotes a paragraph from the response which mentions the six-week time figure. He goes on to say that he found it questionable and checked it with the DWP. What he then tells us suggests that the fault lies with the Department for Work and Pensions, for deliberately failing to directly answer the direct questions that had been put to it.

“They said no – actually there is a rather weird, obtuse meaning of it, which they mean it was six weeks either side of this thing – there was a six-week period either side of the death and that was when the claim ended.”


That has nothing to do with the original request! If they died, they died!

“A lot of these people would have died, and then the claim ended shortly afterwards because they were dead,” Chivers said, as though it excused the DWP of any wrong-doing. All he was doing was reiterating the problem – that people have been dying while claiming ESA!

Presenter Tim Harford then chimed in: “So what the DWP are doing here is, they take a snapshot, they see a certain number of people are making a benefit claim and are alive, and then six weeks later they take another snapshot and they discover that these people are no longer making a benefit claim, and these people are no longer alive?”


This would make a nonsense of the DWP’s statistical release from 2012. It covers a period from January to November 2011, inclusive. That’s 11 months, not six weeks! No ‘snapshots’ were taken – it was a running total showing all deaths during the c.48 weeks covered, not the sum of two ‘snapshots’ taken six weeks apart. In fact, the DWP should be grateful for this because 10,600 deaths within six weeks comes out at 1,767 deaths per week, rather than the 220 maximum that some of us have been suggesting.

Not content with producing a statement of utter nonsense, Harford decided to confuse the listening public with a completely different interpretation within minutes of the first: “So 10,600 claimants didn’t die six weeks after their claim ended; 10,600 claimants died within the same six-week period as their claim ended – not the same thing at all.” Correct – it’s not even the same thing you said moments previously, Tim.

And it still isn’t accurate! Look at the top of this article again. The DWP made it perfectly clear that it does not monitor what happens to people after their claim ends – these are all people who died while claiming the benefit, who should have been receiving the maximum amount of care possible, but didn’t.

That is the issue More or Less should have been investigating. That is why the show, Harford, Chivers and the BBC have failed us so appallingly.

The perpetrators of this atrocity decided to end with some unbearably smug platitudes – to show how completely they have misunderstood the situation, it seems.

From Chivers: “What this comes down to, as far as I’m concerned, is just a dreadful piece of communication by the DWP. This fairly, well, not simple but not complicated piece of information has been translated into 10,000 people dying within six weeks of being callously removed from their benefits.”

Wrong! Thanks to a few inaccurate memes, Chivers has tried to translate the DWP’s information into something it is not, diverting attention away from the real problem.

People are still dying – on a daily basis – because of the way the Department for Work and Pensions has decided to handle claims for incapacity benefits. It is a national scandal.

Remember: Those 10,600 deaths cover a period of just 11 months, ending nearly three years ago. How many have died since then? Has the number escalated or decreased? If More or Less had done its research, it could have been reporting on the biggest genocide of the British people by their own government since the Harrowing of the North.

Instead, we got this from Tim Harford: “So the moral of this story: It’s always worth asking what a statistic is really counting, rather than assuming we know.”

Really? What a shame Mr Harford did not practise what he was preaching.

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38 thoughts on “‘More or Less’ on the ESA deaths: MORE stupidity, LESS accuracy

  1. Mike Sivier Post author

    If you want to complain to the BBC about this travesty of a programme, you can do so by contacting:


    Phone: 03700 100 222 *
    03700 100 212 * (textphone)
    *24 hours, charged as 01/02 geographic numbers

    Post:BBC Complaints
    PO Box 1922
    DL3 0UR

    Radio 4 has a programme called Feedback which features listeners’ opinions of shows. If you want to provide yours (keep it short and to-the-point), it can be contacted several ways:

    By emailing [email protected]

    By phoning 03 333 444 544

    By tweeting @BBCR4Feedback

  2. marcusdemowbray

    I hope this sort of evidence is presented to the United Nations as evidence of UK’s breaches of UN Disability rules. The refusal to divulge any more statistics might be classed by UN as a cover up. Someone HAS to forward this article to UN!

  3. Tony Dean

    Mike I have already emailed “More of Less” about the programme.
    For a start I have no idea where the “within six weeks” came from.
    My own calculations using data I can access give a death rate between a fit for work decision and a tribunal date. (Which may be up to a year,) of 14 per 1000 during that time.
    The death rate for the “normal” working age population is 2.9/1000/annum.
    Over 4 times that to be expected warrants investigation and analysis, not people like you and me being called “vexatious.”

    1. wildthing666

      It wouldn’t suprise me if the DWP are at it again with 6 weeks either side of the decision letter going out, so either 6 weeks before they made a decision, or 6 weeks after they made the decision of somwone been fit for work. After all the DWP just rubber stamp the reports in over 99% of cases.

      1. Mike Sivier Post author

        If they decide someone is fit for work and cut off their benefit, they don’t follow up on those people’s condition.
        All the recorded deaths were of people who had an active claim – none were of people who had a decision against them.

  4. Mr.Angry

    Mike dreadful I missed the broadcast and was going to download it thank god I did not would have ruined my weekend probably would have trashed the radio in temper. This lot are beyond comprehension. I pray to God this UN intervention does something positive to help in what is going on. Surely the rest of the nation can’t turn a blind eye to this, it’s back door genocide and happening here under our noses.

    My appreciation for following this up and making it known to your readers enjoy the rest of your weekend, hope this hasn’t got to you to much albeit depressing.

    I shall lodge a formal complaint but following my last one re the lack of coverage on the mass demonstration in London outside their headquarters will no doubt receive a limp response.

  5. David K.

    That’s a shocking lack of clarity from a usually quite rigorous programme on the journalistic, scientific and governmental use of statistics. It sounds like very lazy research rather than a deliberate attempt to deceive the listening public. As such it is not what the programme is supposed to be about and is a dereliction of the BBC’s public service broadcasting remit. At the very least the programme should have made clear how the figure of 10,600 deaths was calculated – the programme makers seem not to know – and they should have highlighted the fact that the government is determined not to collect or release any figures that might give an indication of the deadly impact of its changes to the social security system.

    1. Florence

      Lazy research? Or a political decision to “have to cover” something, tick in the box for the BBC? We all know that it’s not that difficult to understand the issues and the figures, but it can take some pretty awkward contortions to make this sort of “confuddle” out of it. The choice of guest also speaks volumes about the political agenda behind this coverage, when there are so many better out there.

      I cannot be as generous as you. I used to work at the BBC (many years ago, not in journalism) and it used to be a place we were all proud to be, and feel great anger at what has happened to journalism in the BBC, (more so than in the mainstream where we were never in doubt about who was pulling the levers).

      The bottom line of the broadcast seemed to deliberately minimise any significance of these deaths, and their causes by making the “figures” the story. If nothing else, I would be compelled to ask, never mind what people make out of the (misinterpretation of the figures) these were PEOPLE and they DIED. Sadly even a nod at that issue was missed in this botch-job.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Please do as I do – headline plus a little of the text, and a link to the article.

  6. Tisme's Cares

    Mike – thank you so much for following up on this with this blog. I was OUTRAGED when I heard this. Radio 4 is normally so perspicacious when it comes to stuff like this so to hear this on a STATISTICS programme? Well, I was truly shocked. Well done. Nessie

  7. Nick

    there is no way mike the bbc could have reported the deaths in any depth or meaningful way as it would have taken years to have researched and been able to get to the true facts hence the lack of any sort of clarity

    The true facts with regards the DWP deaths will only come about when the government of the day orders a full public enquiry of which will take many years to complete owing to the complexity of all of the many thousands of sick and disabled that have died in going through welfare reform

    there is no way the bbc have the resources to be able to undertake this sort of enquiry

    1. Mike Sivier

      It would not have taken years – DWP has all the necessary information and could provide it at a moment’s notice. I have that in any email from a DWP representative.

      I think you may be right about an inquiry being necessary as the current government is so determined to hide the facts. Until such time as it is completed, I would say it would be prudent to remove their passports from everyone involved, starting at David Cameron and working downwards.

      1. Nick

        That information from the DWP would not be conclusive as full facts as to how a person died and the circumstances that led up to their death

        Not all of the DWP deaths were negligent although most were but in law you have to take in many circumstances along with the coroners reports to determine what had led up to the person dying and what led up to those that took their own life by committing suicide

        as a example some would have starved to death some committed suicide with the rest very ill many in hospital going to their grave thinking they were scroungers

        some of the pictures i have are most horrific to look at but I’m sure any judge in the land would have just looked at the picture to know full well that the person in the picture was no way ever under any circumstances fit for work and died an horrendous death both physical and mentally having had their benefits stopped

        if i were a judge the government wouldn’t have a hope in hell of getting off the hook as i have amassed hundreds of photos off the web of those that have died and what cant speak cant lie and i would find all of those involved of gross manslaughter and sentence all convicted to life in prison as that in law would be the only sentence that would be applicable in this case

        with so many sick and disabled having died over the past few years even a judge would find the trial complexed so much so you would probably need many judges working together to get to some sort of understanding of what had actually taken place

        also we must never forget the many sick and disabled who have died with no press reports whatsoever those that lived alone and without families’ i have one from my estate for example and am sure that would have been repeated in many other parts of the country

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        Of course, we don’t need to prove ALL cases – just a few specimens, with the remaining tens of thousands Taken Into Account.
        That’s one way to get the main perpetrators.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      But that is exactly what the DWP statistical release states!
      The DWP does not follow what happens to people after their claim is closed, therefore the deaths took place while the claimants were in what we might mockingly describe as the DWP’s ‘care’.
      The issue is as I have described it in the article. Chivers did not prove anything because it was already in the statistical release for all to see. It doesn’t change the fact that 220 people have been dying every week while claiming a benefit that is supposed to provide them with an adequate income to survive comfortably.
      Clearly the was the DWP assesses claims and the way claimants are treated after claims have been granted is causing fatalities.
      The deaths of people AFTER their claim is closed is a separate matter, and one that will be far more difficult to prove. It requires records of closed claims to be preserved, so the well-being of these claimants can be followed up. I fear the Tories at the DWP will be shredding documents and deleting digital information just as fast as they can, when May 2015 rolls around.

      1. kittysjones

        Yes, that’s the conclusion I reached too – “Clearly the was the DWP assesses claims and the way claimants are treated after claims have been granted is causing fatalities.”

        I’m not a clever person, but I do understand stats and inferential testing, as I studied psychology and sociology…Chivers clearly hasn’t recognised statistical significance and correlation here

        I made a statistical cross comparison of deaths, using the same Department for Work and Pensions Freedom Of Information (FOI) request as Tom Chivers, though my analysis was undertaken last year, I found that the FOI yielded a response showing that people having their claim for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) stopped, between October 2010 and November 2011, with a recorded date of death within six weeks of that claim ceasing, who were until recently claiming Incapacity Benefit (IB) – and who were migrated onto ESA – totalled 310. Between January and November 2011, those having their ESA claim ended, with a recorded date of death within six weeks of that claim ending totalled 10,600.

        This is a very substantial, significant statistical variation over a comparatively similar time scale (although the 10,600 deaths actually happened over a shorter time scale – by 3 months) that appears to be correlated with the type of benefit and, therefore, the differing eligibility criteria – the assessment process – as both population samples of claimants on ESA and IB contain little variation regarding the distribution in the cohorts in terms of severity of illness or disability. Bearing in mind that those who were successfully migrated to ESA from IB were assessed and deemed unfit for work, (under a different assessment process, originally) one would expect that the death rates would be similar to those who have only ever claimed ESA.

        This is very clearly not the case. And we know that the ESA assessment process has actually excluded many seriously ill people from entitlement because of the media coverage of individual tragic cases, when a person deemed fit for work by Atos has died soon after the withdrawal of their lifeline benefit, and of course, such case studies and evidence informs Parliamentary debate, as well as the ongoing Work and Pension Committee inquiry into ESA, details of which may be found on the Hansard record.

        Further evidence that very ill and disabled people have been excluded from an award of ESA may be found in the statistical outcomes of tribunals – there is a consistently very high success rate amongst those who have appealed Atos/DWP decisions, over that time period. Those on IB were not required to have continuous assessments, whereas those on ESA are constantly required to undergo the Work Capability Assessment.

        Dr Steven Bick indicated that there are targets to reduce the number of people who “qualify” for ESA payments, the WCA is unfairly and irrationally weighted towards finding people fit for work, often when it’s clearly not the case, so each assessment is simply an opportunity for the DWP to end claims. Many claimants have described a “revolving door” process of endless assessment, ceased ESA claim, (based on an outcome of almost invariably being wrongly “assessed” as fit for work), appeal, successful appeal outcome, benefit reinstated, only to find just 3 months later another assessment is required.

        The uncertainty and loss of even basic security that this process creates, leading to constant fear and anxiety, is having a damaging, negative impact on the health and well-being of so many. A significant proportion of those required to have endless assessments have very obviously serious illnesses such as cancer, kidney failure, lung disease, heart disease, severe and life-threatening chronic conditions such as multiple sclerosis, lupus, myalgic encephalomyelitis, rheumatoid arthritis, brain tumours, severe heart conditions, and severe mental health illness, for example. To qualify for ESA, the claimant must provide a note from a doctor stating that the person is unfit for work.

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        I’ve just spent most of the evening writing a demand for the DWP to reconsider my last FoI request, with reference to the Information Commissioner’s guidance on what constitutes a public interest exemption from providing the information. Having done that, I am content to approve your comment and leave any reply for a later moment, when I’ve got my head back together.

      3. kittysjones

        Also, From the DWP’s own figures, between January and November 2011, 1300 people placed in the ‘Work Related Activity’ group died within 6 weeks of the decision, which clearly indictates an incorrect decision was made about their claim, which may have contributed to their deaths, and many others

    2. kittysjones

      “I’ve just spent most of the evening writing a demand for the DWP to reconsider my last FoI request, with reference to the Information Commissioner’s guidance on what constitutes a public interest exemption from providing the information. Having done that, I am content to approve your comment and leave any reply for a later moment, when I’ve got my head back together.”

      Yes I quite understand how distressing, depressing, and sometimes, enraging it is writing about the whole array of appallingly grim issues regarding the ‘reforms’, Mike. and particularly this one. As well as researching, raising awareness and sharing info, it’s our reality – we’re living it, too. I’m ill with an autoimmune illness – a severe type of systemic lupus. We are embedded in the narrative, and campaigning is currently my own jail and jailer, almost as much as being disabled.

      That tory ‘get out of accountability’ clause – public interest exemption – was deployed previously too, when I submitted the FOI requests regarding the NHS risk register – despite the tribunal rulings, still undisclosed. Me and probably many others. It’s difficult to imagine that such a tactic wasn’t devised, planned before the ‘reforms’ isn’t it.


  8. jeffrey davies

    to get the bbc showing up the tories ah its like pulling teeth but then bbc the tory partys mouth piece

  9. AB50

    Hi Mike, thanks for the article clarifying the figures once again.
    As you’ll recall, the programme started by mentioning the White flowers representing those that died.
    Combine this with the Telegraph reporter, I find it difficult to conclude that it was unbiased.

  10. oxtonfaddy

    Hi, this is in reply to kittysjones’ analysis above as it doesn’t have a direct “reply” link. I don’t understand how you’re comparing death rates between the full ESA group, and the subset that’s migrated from IB. We’re given the statistic that the 10,600 deaths represent about 1% of the total ESA caseload, but I don’t see any comparable indication of the percentage of the “migrated from IB” caseload represented by the 310 deaths in that group. So, unless I’m missing something, we don’t have two rates to compare, just two totals.

  11. Nick

    also we must not forget that there are still sick and disabled people dying each week through negligence and although the numbers dying have dropped the bottom line is there still dying so the public need to understand this but with regret i don’t think they do and for many never will

  12. Spoonydoc

    I don’t see why the 7700 people dying from the support group with a WCA date before November 2011 is evidence of being hounded by reassessments. This WCA could be their first WCA. Nothing in this particular evidence says it is not, particularly as it conflates new ESA claimants with IB transfers.
    Please note I am not saying unnecessary reassessments don’t happen. I am in the support group myself and to date have undergone 4 assessments since 2011. Fortunately the last assessor saw sense and gave me a 3 year reprieve. I just don’t see that this particular statistic is evidence for this happening.

    In terms of the DWP refusing to acknowledge the system failings, I don’t understand why no one has followed up on the research performed in 2011 on behalf of the DWP “Unsuccessful Employment and Support Allowance claims – qualitative research” and demand it be expanded.
    This study on 60 people 5-7 months after their claim ended found that no less than 20% were neither claiming benefits nor were in work. Many were subsisting on DLA alone or on friends and family. If this is indicative of what happens to everyone, then it should be a national scandal. Surely this study should have triggered a full blown investigation? If it did, it should pick up on disabled people subsisting on nothing, as well as any deaths.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      For a long time I – and most others – didn’t include the support group in our own calculation of unnecessary deaths. The average figure of 73 deaths per week is worked out from the number of deaths in the pre-assessment and WRAG categories.
      I was only persuaded to include the Support Group in the calculation after it was pointed out to me that people in that group were dealing with much higher stress and anxiety due to the assessment and re-assessment process. You are mistaken in thinking that any WCA they were facing could be their first, though. They were already in the Support Group and must therefore have already been through the WCA process; there was no other way they could have been awarded the benefit in the first place. Note also that people who had successfully appealed against a decision that they were fit for work and were put in the Support Group were made to face a new work capability assessment within a matter of weeks, rather than months or several years required by the law.
      I am also interested to note that your own experience of four assessments since 2011 does not indicate to you that people in the Support Group are receiving continual reassessment or that it could cause anxiety.
      There have been many attempts to get the DWP to follow up what happens to unsuccessful ESA claimants and they have all been refused. If nothing else, perhaps that might provide sufficient evidence for you to question the motives of the people in charge of that Department at this time?

      1. Spoonydoc

        I didn’t say my own experience of 4 reassessments does not indicate continual reassessment or anxiety. I experienced both.
        I said “Please note I am not saying unnecessary reassessments don’t happen.” When I subsequently added “I just don’t see that this particular statistic is evidence for this happening” I was talking about the 7,100 Support Group deaths statistic”. I apologise if I didn’t make that clear.
        My own anecdotal evidence does indeed support the theory (fact?) that continual reassessment is occurring and causing significant stress and anxiety, which is why I mentioned it.

  13. Nick (@Mylegalforum)

    As always Mike, some very valid points here. On ilegal.org.uk I’m going to have ‘re-look’ at this, taking in to account the much larger numbers of claimants who have been through the ESA mill, both before and after assessment. The problem here, as you know, is government’s deliberate refusal to carry out any form of much needed research in to the number of deaths which can be associated with the ESA regime.

    I do not think we should leave it at deaths, we should also look at people who have reported a serious decline in their health condition; in some cases leading to reports of suicide attempts. Perhaps one way of assessing this substantial risk factor is to look at the number of claimants who have been awarded ESA via the exceptional rule regulations 29 & 35; both of which are associated with entitlement even where the claimant does not meet the WRAG or Support Group criteria?

    One aspect which is overlooked by some is the stress of living on too little money in the Assessment Phase for far too long, as well as the issue of claimants being subjected to quite torturous conditionality by the JCP and WP providers. Bizarrely, it is often the JCP or WP providers who says to the claimant ” You’re far too ill to be helped by us, you should appeal and get yourself in to the Support Group” – thus information on WRAG to Support Group applications may well shine some light on this as well.

    I’m a little disappointed to hear of people who have not been through the WCA, or who have not guided anyone through the process spring to its defence, we really need to be picking up on those who have been harmed by it, rather than those who have survived unscathed.

    On the issue of 6 weeks either side of the date of the assessment. It baffles me how the DWP can so readily pinpoint this date when the rest of their date is always so incomplete and months behind time. I also wonder how the date of death is recorded by the DWP, is it the actual date of death or the date that the DWP actually notes the death and brings the claim to an end? There are all manner or problems associated with fixing this date as claims are paid in arrears and so forth.

    I’ll let you know what my findings are.

    Keep up the good work.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      I take it you are referring to the rather fevered discussion on Twitter yesterday, in parts of your post? I lost patience with it in the end because it seemed to me that some people were only there to reject any evidence that suggested wrong-doing on the part of the government.
      I shall await your findings with interest.

    2. Spoonydoc

      Many people have concentrated on how the ESA process harms people with mental health problems. This is a good and valid thing to look at.
      I would be very interested to see how it harms people who did not have mental health problems at the start of the process.
      Another anecdote for you: I did not have mental health issues at the start of my claim but did by the time I had finished. This is despite having lived with serious chronic illness and disability for 17 years and coped with difficult personal problems at one time and another without ever having had mental health issues. The psychologists I saw actually wrote in their report that the DWP should refrain from unnecessarily assessing me! (fat chance).
      Anecdotally I have spoken to other people who report being in the same situation as me. As yet, although I was able to report this to initial enquiries into ESA, there has been no investigation into this aspect of the process.

      1. Mike Sivier Post author

        Anecdotally, I would agree that the process engenders mental health problems for claimants. Mrs Mike has had mental health issues in the past but was more or less okay when her IB claim was passported into ESA. When the DWP messed the claim up so monumentally last year (as documented on this blog) her state of mind deteriorated very badly, very quickly. I don’t know what would have happened if I had not been around to sort out the problem and I wonder if DWP ministers are banking on people like me not being there to help.

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