News stories are proliferating about the increasing clamour for the Department for Work and Pensions to publish ESA death figures, so you are increasingly likely to read a comment similar to – or the same as – this:
“The Department for Work and Pensions insists it is irresponsible to suggest deaths which follow an assessment that claimants are fit to work were caused by the assessment.
“A spokeswoman said: ‘We have been clear that we intended to publish these statistics – but we need to make sure they meet the high standards expected by the UK Statistics Authority before we do so.'”
The above comment, from the Birmingham Mail, is particularly ironic when one considers the fact that the UK Statistics Authority has reprimanded Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith for playing fast and loose with the facts.
Also, of course, nobody is suggesting that the assessment itself causes deaths – although the medical is extremely stressful and may contribute to a worsening of health (Mrs Mike spent three days in agony on the sofa, hardly able to move, after hers). The deaths come after the DWP decision maker marks people ‘fit for work’ when they should be in the Support Group (for those with serious medical issues), or orders people who should be in the support group to do Work-Related Activity when this is beyond their capabilities.
The deaths come after people who fail to meet the requirements of the WRA group are sanctioned off-benefit and cannot afford to support themselves.
The deaths come after people who need to be in the Support Group but have been signed off-benefit, after going through a lengthy and deliberately stressful appeal process to get it back, arrive home to find an envelope on the mat saying they’re to be reassessed and will have to go through the process all over again. That’s how it happens.
Here’s how the DWP intends to fool you this time:
In her appeal to the Information Tribunal, £49,000-a-year Treasury barrister Marie Cayetano wrote: “At the time of Mr Sivier’s request, the DWP was working on a set of statistics on Age Standardised Mortality Rates (‘ASMR’) for publication at a future date which was yet to be determined. That remains the case. The DWP intends to publish those statistics.
“The ASMR statistics will include the categories of information within parts… of Mr Sivier’s request. The published statistical analysis would cover a ten-year period up to February 2014. Mr Sivier’s request was made on 28 May 2014, but it is important to note that, at that time, the DWP only held the data within the scope of his request up to November 2013. The ASMR statistics will therefore cover a longer period than Mr Sivier’s request.”
Age-Standardised mortality rates are the number of deaths, usually expressed per 100,000, that would occur in that area if it had the same age structure as the standard population and the local age-specific rates of the area applied, according to Public Health England.
Ms Cayetano is saying the figures to be published by the DWP would not state the number of deaths which have taken place between November 2011 and May 2014. Instead we would be given a fudged figure showing the number of deaths among ESA claimants when compared with the average number among the population as a whole. That is not what I requested; it is not what anybody wants.
Furthermore, the figures would cover 10 years from February 2004 to February 2014. ESA was not even operating until 2008. Any ESA death figures that are stretched to cover years when that benefit was not even being provided will be distorted.
Finally, it is nonsense to suggest that the ASMR statistics will cover a longer period than my request. If the DWP had figures to November 2013 it should have provided them. This Writer is quite happy to receive the remainder when they become available. As it is now more than a year since the request was made, all the requested statistics should be available now.
So the next time you read a comment from the DWP about the raw figures being misinterpretable, consider how that Department wishes to mislead you when it does finally release its doctored statistics – and ask yourself why ministers first claimed they were putting these – doctored – statistics together in August 2013 and still haven’t published them.
Then visit the petition site on Change.org, sign and say exactly what you think of the evil game they are playing.
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