Desperate DWP’s last minute appeal against revealing benefit-related deaths

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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66 thoughts on “Desperate DWP’s last minute appeal against revealing benefit-related deaths

      1. dave McGrath

        sadly the media is no longer independent. It is controlled by 6 corporations all colluding with the government and effectively now a state propaganda mediem

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        You mean they’re balanced?
        I have sent information to that organisation, along with all the other national news outlets.

  1. Peter Kennedy

    Thank you for persisting with this Mike. You have been an inspiration, and I like your style. The thought of what lies in this data must open people’s eyes. IDS may have won the battle this time, but the fight goes on and we shouldn’t go away 🙂

    1. Florence

      I can only echo Peter’s comment. Superficially this is another kick in the gut, but it does strengthen the sense that this data will cause seismic shock waves politically. You’ve got all our backing and our support and our heartfelt thanks for persisting with this, Mike.

      We must also keep up pressure through our MPs, and the local press, and through all forms of communication to expose the DWP. This final last gasp appeal shows them to be cowards, as well as killers. I hope Simon will forward this new appeal to the UN, too. The very fact they say they fear what “conclusions are drawn” reveals this last minute appeal is in itself a smoking gun.

      1. Florence

        Yes, Mike, thanks for that.Samuel Miller. (Having a CFS week. I should step away from the keyboard, as well as all hot, sharp or pointy things.)

      2. Nicola Everill

        Another echo of support, just imagine if they were the ones asking a claimant to reveal information and we tried to be this evasive? They literally know how often I go to the toilet.

  2. Ian

    Kell supreez, eh? IDS really is the worst example of humanity in British politics. Cowardly, malicious, deluded, inadequate little hypocrite. The sooner he gets a pulmonary embolism, the better.

    1. Liz O'neill

      Couldn’t agree with you more, and please let the embolism leave him severely disabled as according to him this will mean he is fit for work.

  3. Jim Round

    I think the main problem will be that when the figures are finally released, who will “really” care?
    I very much doubt it will receive any MSM exposure, apart from on this, and a few other fine blogs.
    An idea for you Mike, put the figures when you get them with a comment in the middle of one of your cats (I think you said you had one) doing something “funny” or maybe in the middle of a Jeremy Clarkson video, as for reasons I and many other sane folk cannot fathom, they get many more views and signatories than this and other worthy causes.
    For example:
    https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/defend-disabled-people-s-right-to-independent-living?bucket=&source=twitter-share-button
    That Clarkson goon got over a million signatures, the one above has just over 2000??????
    The mind boggles.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Actually, Jim, I reckon your cat idea is a work of genius.
      I’ll shave it into Snuggles (she’s the one who’s close to being the oldest cat in the world, and therefore too slow to savage me with her claws and teeth). If I tried to do anything to Crunchie, she’d turn me into a kebab.

      1. vomsters

        A voice over explaining the information while the cats do something amusing? A “breaking news” interruption cutaway just as the amusing stuff is starting?

  4. Nick

    The deaths of the sick and disabled that have gone through welfare reform are very high so high they could bring down the government if the press got involved which in turn drew in the UN as they have a full listing of deaths that have been compiled by them over the past 5 years

    Once the true extent of these allegations come about then heads will role and Dr David Kelly will spring to mind which in turn may wake the people of the uk who have been very deaf and blind the past 5 years as to what has been going behind closed doors within the way the DWP has been operating

  5. will

    In truth if your looking for exposure send the final article and all the information to the SNP and let them hammer one big huge nail in IDS`s head. After this please look into how how ex service personal in the armed forces are treated by the MoD when making a claim for injuries that leave them disabled for life and with mental heath issues. People complain about waiting a few months for a decision but in reality most veterans wait on average over 54+ weeks if they are lucky and some cases have been on going for over 3 years+.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      The SNP?
      Ha ha.
      I think I know someone else who is already working on problems facing disabled ex-service personnel.

  6. ingrid

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Mike. You don’t know how much this post means to me, then again, yes you do 🙂

  7. JohnDee

    Despite what Jim says, I think Peter got it right jn the first comment – if only through a double-entendre Freudian slip:
    “… what lies in this data …” (once released), though I sincerely hope that I’m incorrect.

    Personally, I believe that the truth is so shocking that it will be impossible for the tories to come clean on this issue (let’s hope we have a whistler-blower with access).

    But even if the figures are released, does anyone know exactly what assurance do we have that they’ll will be accurate, considering all the obfuscation by these murderers?

    Ditto thnx, as always to both Mike and and Samuel. Namaste.

    1. vomsters

      That, as you say, may come down to someone with a conscience within the DWP who realises the wrong figures have been released. They may be people who are relieved that the facts are coming to light and, should the figures once released be hugely different to the facts, it may be the vital push for them – when you are concerned about your own livelihood, your own family, what the loss of your job (and probable prosecution/threats of such by the department) would mean in the current climate it is relatively easy to push to the back of your mind anything that happens to those you don’t know. Hells, it is what the majority of people do every day.

      Somebody pointed out to me 2 weeks ago, when talking about how politicised I have become, that it has been even more apparent since my chronic illness became more disabling (even though I am “lucky” in not qualifying for ESA/JSA). Unless you can really vicariously feel what it is like, then you need a push to see (or even want to see) beyond the MSM headlines. And even then, how many people do you know who have a chronically ill or disabled family member who still spout the DM’s line? Even to the point of telling other people that their sister/brother/aunt/cousin/whatever is “milking the system & doesn’t really need help”?

      People can be right selfish b*****ds a lot of the time. And generally easily led.

    2. Jojo

      Well done to expose I actually did this regard a special needs school that the local authority wanted my son to attend they was cove

  8. Hazel Tetlow

    Just wondering when nhs are gonna publish statistics about waiting time guidelines for apps and ops? Hospital sends app out within the expected time line so looks like it’s hitting targets n doing what it should but then send cancellation letter with new app way way out of guidelines.not just any one area of nhs.all different areas doing same.mental health patients supposed to be seen every 3 months n last seen 12 months ago?? Friend with acute joint pain scheduled for every 3 months?can hardly walk? Lucky if she gets app within 6 month.someone waiting for operation on knee? Sent app for all to go ahead within suggested guidelines?? Cancellation letter sent less than week after.disgusting but nobody picks up on it.this with sea deaths will be covered up just like everything else coz the bottom line is they all piss in one pot.nxt thing will be “missing paperwork”

      1. Andrew Grant

        Yes, for years now we get sent dermatology appointments, and we don’t even bother putting them in the diary any more, because like clockwork we get sent a cancellation letter pushing the appointment back by months. I’ve always wondered why they don’t just give us the second appointment in the first place.

  9. graham fruish

    What we all should remember is that the DWP is just a department of the government and its this government that is ultimately responsible for all of its departments actions.

  10. Rupert Mitchell (@rupert_rrl)

    Obviously the number of deaths is far higher than previously thought and, like all unethical and cowardly people, they want that covered up. This is not a matter which can be left unanswered if we are to have even a slim chance of democracy in this country.

  11. M de Mowbray

    Shocking, but entirely predictable given Iain Duncan Smutt’s arrogance and deceit, keep at it Mike, the truth will out!

  12. Timro

    If the number of deaths amongst the sick and disabled noticeably increased after the coalition “welfare reforms” were introduced this would be strongly suggestive that the “reforms” were responsible all other things being equal. What needs to be done is to compare the death rate over a long period, before and after the changes occurred, to determine whether any increase in the death rate is correlated with benefit changes.

    Based on the DWP’s disgraceful behaviour I would imagine the link would be obvious.

  13. NMac

    Keep fighting them Mike. They are clearly frightened of this becoming public knowledge.

  14. Nigel Plum

    ok here’s the thing. The figures requested won’t show those who died from having their benefits cut. Quite the opposite. They’ll show who died despite their benefits not being cut.

    Linda Wootton would not appear in them as she wasn’t on benefits when she died. And while it was vile beyond words to cut them she didn’t die because of them being cut.

    Of course a lot of people die when they are on incapacity benefit. They’re not well. But you can’t necessarily lay the blame at the feet of IDS for every one of them.

    If we are to fight this policy we need to bring facts and actual cases to the table. Rather than search for scary but ultimately meaningless headlines.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Linda Wootton was told she was fit by the government – and died nine days later. That indicates a serious failure of the DWP’s assessment system and therefore a serious lack of provision for people who need special (and specialised) help.

      You are right that I can’t blame Iain Duncan Smith and his idiotic ‘reforms’ for every single ESA death, because some of those in the support group will indeed have terminal conditions and will pass away. Unfortunately, the DWP does not differentiate between deaths so – again – any lack of clarity is an issue for the government department, not me. The DWP has stubbornly refused to change the way it records deaths, despite requests for the information to be divided up in more helpful ways.

      That being said, any deaths in the work-related activity group are totally unjustified unless they were accidental. Everybody in that group is supposed to be on the mend and able to work within a year of being placed there. The same goes for some of the other categories in my request.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      I still think the ICO’s decision was deliberately delayed to prevent this from happening.

  15. John

    What are the odds that the information will accidentally be destroyed before its released?

  16. Jamie Brunel

    I reckon, if you will excuse my turn of phrase, that the DWP will already have had an inquest into every case and eliminated all those they deem to have been beyond all medical help…

  17. Chris Tandy

    Does this odious government actually define ” not in the public interest”?
    Like everything in their topsy-tory world, I suppose anything that is in the public interest is therefore “not in the public interest”
    It puts me in mind, less of Ayn Rand, and more of Charles Dodgson.

  18. Pete B

    The truth will out.It usually does in the end.The over privileged Toffs will trip themselves up in the end.

    I dare say that Himmler,Goering,Goebbels etc thought the truth would never see the light of day.

    And when the truth does come out,friends and families of the likes of IDS,Cameron etc will try to distance themselves from the coming storm.Its coming,sow the wind, reap the whirlwind.

  19. Steve Stevens

    The DWP ought to publish the data you have requested. As you correctly point out, fear of what you might do with it is not a reason to refuse an FOI.

    However, I too have some misgivings about how you might use these numbers. From reading this article, it seems like you really want to get a line like “X number of ESA and IB claimants died between Nov 11 and May 14” and to suggest that government policies have in some way caused or at least contributed to the number of deaths.

    However, this would be misleading. It would be to mistake correlation for causality. i.e. just because people have died while claiming ESA or IB does not *in itself* show that government policies caused those deaths. (That may be the case, but the data cannot be used to show that).

    In order to use data to show that, you would have to have at the very least some sort of control group. e.g. the number of people claiming similar benefits who died in a corresponding period before the coalition government took office, or the number of disabled people NOT claiming benefits who died in the same period.

    So, if you could say “There were 10 deaths per 1000 ESA or IB claimants during this period, but only 5 deaths per 1000 of disabled non-claimants in the same period” then you’re starting to get somewhere (though you still haven’t proved conclusively that govt policies caused their deaths).

    Good luck.

  20. Nick

    You have to remember that anyone speaking out internally from the DWP to the outside press is more then likely to end up dead

    having said that there is bound to be at least one honest member of staff in high authority who will furnish the press with the full facts in due course that i believe will happen

    Hitler managed to keep the Germans onside for a long time Hitler did not speak publicly about the killings of the sick and disabled and those with mental condition’s and seems never to have visited the concentration camps

    and there lies the uk danger the DWP can remain in denial forever and a day if the goal is to keep the sick and disabled in austerity forever and that my friends is what i believe the outcome will be for this group

    This group will die much quicker under a lifetime of austerity and over time will be wiped out completely and that those born disabled will have their lives terminated

    There has always been those with Hitlers mentality in governments across the world and today is no difference the main goal thou is to know who these people are as they are masters like pedophiles in keeping a low profile and in most cases for a lifetime

  21. karen

    How long will it take for the appeal to be heard? If appeal tells dwp to release the figures how long will they have to release the figures after dwp fails in its appeal?

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Those are good questions.
      When I appealed last year, it happened within around three or four months – but I would imagine it depends on the length of the queue.
      As for the time allowed for the figures to be released, I don’t know. I didn’t get that far last time (obviously).

      1. karen

        I think the figures will be devastatingly huge, judging by the desperation not to release the figures. Will there be any chance that this government faces corporate manslaughter charges for the deaths that have happened? Also the council of Europe last year ruled that the UK government was in breach of human rights law regarding the amount of benefits that people are entitled to. What I want to know is there any way of enforcing the council of Europe s ruling.?

  22. Clap along if you feel that the cat will soon be loose :)

    THE NOOSE IS TIGHTENING AROUND OLD GEORGE SMITHS NECK!! 🙂 IGNORE THE POSH Iain AND DUNCAN BIT.

  23. lemonwater

    The Noose is getting tighter Around the department for Deceit and Sanctions neck 🙂

  24. Mr.Angry

    Cameron’s words ” We will be the most transparent government ever” They are extremely dangerous and the more I hear now from Labour MP’s since the election is even more worrying.

    I am sorry for you Mike an uphill struggle against a brick wall, thanks for all your efforts.

    Only time will tell.

  25. Robert Herring

    Thanks for your perseverance Mike. My own experience of the DWP/ATOS etc revealed a large number of university educated people who couldn’t seem to manage the two times table! Fortunately I’d got 20 years service with one employer and managed to get an early pension on the grounds of incapacity (after ATOS found nothing wrong with me, of course) so I’m free from their depredations. I am wholly aware that there are plenty who are not so lucky though!

  26. Dan

    Don’t give up, they will have to release the information eventually! Hopefully when the truth is out there they will be forced to stop this assault on the poor and the vulnerable. Will be watching this story closely.

  27. David Ellis

    I have noticed that the issue of euthanasia has been all over the media in the last week or two (i.e. the “Last Supper” headlines), so I expect that to become law very quickly, probably even quicker than polyamory, etc. This will be good news for Cameron and crew, because instead of starving people to death through benefits cuts, or stressing them to death through fit-for-work assessments, they will be able to bump off all undesirables completely legally.

  28. wildthing666

    Whenever they are told to give out the info, they are just using delaying tactics what about RT news they seem to turn a blind eye to what the UK government say and do more story’s of public interest than MSM

  29. Stephen Holmes

    To say I am disgusted by the Governments treatment of the Sick and Disabled is an understatement
    I have no doubt the information you seek Mike will be damning in the extreme
    I sincerely hope the true scale of those that have died is finally revealed and those responsible are held to account as well they should be

  30. Jackie Cairns

    I think they are playing for time, So as to shred most of the evidence and just show but a few. These DWP ministers are murdering people and getting away with it. If it was a normal member of the public who had murdered all these people they would be serving life without parole for it a long time ago.

  31. paul jackman (@paulfitter)

    yes that right MR CAMERON keep it cover up like the N.H.S COMPLAINTS & HANDLING COVER UP the news on this was going to cum out last yr 14/08/2014 still covered up this government is corrupted to the core and the police is in on this we need to make a stand for freedom be4 its to late

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