How the DWP plans to hoodwink you over benefit deaths

Denied benefit: This is the late Karen Sherlock. Her illnesses included chronic kidney disease, a heart condition, vitamin B12 deficiency, anaemia, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, underactive thyroid, asthma, diabetic autonomic neuropathy, gastropaeresis, and diabetic retinopathy. She died on June 8, 2012, of a suspected heart attack, after the Department for Work and Pensions stopped her Employment and Support Allowance.
Denied benefit: This is the late Karen Sherlock. Her illnesses included chronic kidney disease, a heart condition, vitamin B12 deficiency, anaemia, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, underactive thyroid, asthma, diabetic autonomic neuropathy, gastropaeresis, and diabetic retinopathy. She died on June 8, 2012, of a suspected heart attack, after the Department for Work and Pensions stopped her Employment and Support Allowance.

 

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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17 Thoughts to “How the DWP plans to hoodwink you over benefit deaths”

  1. Tony Dean

    Mike I am VERY seriously considering writing a letter to IDS at his home address about this issue. Because however it is spun, the VAST difference between the death rate of 2.9/1000/annum for the general working age population, and that for those being found “fit for work” who appeal and die before a tribunal date is just too massive to be explained away other than that far too many very sick people are being found “fit for work”
    Using the data we do know it is 150/1000 during that time.

    1. crazytrucker1951

      Do you think he would reply Tony, or even care? When I have written or emailed my own MP, she’s now part of the Evil Gang, Deputy Leader of the Commons, if I receive any reply at all it’s like reading the latest Government Press Release! A lot of words that says nothing and doesn’t answer my questions.

      1. Tony Dean.

        IDS does NOT like correspondence going to his home address, when I have given it to others who have been waiting ages, over a year for a benefit decision, they have got their benefit within days.
        I also suspect it is the list of people I will CC it do would make a difference.
        The “Legal Eagle” employed by the DWP needs writing to as well but I can’t find an address for them.

  2. The UN will always come down in my favor on the likes of myself as i have provided them with the deaths on the day of publication over the past 5 years and am a credit to all things worldwide and that wont be changing while i am still alive

    The UK government can spin it whatever way they see fit but at the end of the day the UN and i are as one on this issue and at the end of the day you cant spin the truth

  3. vomsters

    I thought the DWP had been ordered to release the figures (and were told that the excuse of producing different information for publication at a later date was denied – ie, their ASMR rubbish) but had been allowed to do so after the General Election. Did something change in the meantime?

    I’ve been out of the loop for a few weeks while trying to sell my house so am a bit confused.

    1. Mike Sivier

      The DWP refused my FoI request.
      I appealed to the Information Commissioner and won.
      The DWP then appealed to the Information Tribunal, with just 90 minutes to go before the appeal deadline.
      The general election doesn’t really come into this. I knew that the decision on my appeal was on a desk in the Information Commissioner’s Office, waiting for approval, from early March until late April, and I asked the very obvious question, “Was it left lying around so the decision could not affect the election?” But there’s been no proper answer.

  4. maria

    as usual fiddling with he information to suit them and not coming out straight forward, its a mark of a coward, that is afraid to lose his toy.

  5. SallyK

    This on-going fiddle leaves my head in a spin. So incredibly manipulative, with logic predicated on unbelievable distortion of the facts and deliberate misdirection. I can only think that the appeal to overturn the court decision that the statistics have to be made public is merely a buying time exercise -to invent the obfuscation you describe. Guidance on how to be a sane person living in an insane world would not go amiss.

    179,000 now (and rising by the minute) have signed the petition to Petitioning HM Courts & Tribunal Service to Publish the statistics showing how many people have died after their benefits were stopped. Not sure that this petition is any longer relevant after the last minute appeal, but it is still gathering signatures.
    The petition to Ian Duncan Smith to withdraw his appeal against publishing death statistics is no longer found on change.org -any idea why and how many signatures were gathered?
    In any event, you have a lot of public support behind you Mike and people don’t seem willing to let this get swept under the carpet.

    1. Mike Sivier

      I had to save this comment because the petition started behaving strangely. Shortly after it did pass that milestone, it leaped back to 198K and started bouncing back and forth between the two levels. I got in touch with Change.org and was told engineers were working on it – and at the time of writing it stands at 209,000.
      Something happened, and my paranoia suggests that somebody opposed to the petition interfered with it somehow. We’ll see what happens when I get a further report.

    2. Is this a e-petition ? if not it wont be valid by the government

      1. Mike Sivier

        The government took down its e-petition site, Nick.
        In any case, the petition is going to the Information Tribunal, not the government.

      2. Thanks for confirming mike the e-petition site, will be staying down I’m sure in fact it won’t be coming back up i feel?

        Had it been a e-petition it would have had a greater impact but hopefully it would get looked at

        however if it involves the deaths of the sick and disabled in great numbers then for legal reasons there will be no comment from the information Tribunal, as it would open up a various criminal proceedings against the DWP

        The DWP state that they are innocent of all deaths and that those who have died in going through welfare reform would have died anyway and that the unintentional shock to the person that went on to die having been told he was fit for work was indeed unfortunate

        Some chose to die by committing suicide and the others starved to death but at the end of the day they were all going to die every single one of them, as their minds were not at the time of their death balanced or of sound mind

        That is I believe is on how the DWP will address this issue at a later date

        From a layman’s point errors were made that is true but as I have sated many times before it will take many years to go through the many hundreds of deaths of the people that have gone through welfare reform in to how these innocent sick and disabled people have died and to whom was to blame in these horrors

  6. Phil Lee

    Does his (and his departments) ongoing refusal to provide the information of the death toll he has imposed not come under “conspiracy to pervert the course of justice” by now?
    Could it be time to lay informations with the courts?
    As the delay continues, the death toll rises. The department surely cannot by attempting to claim that “they were only following orders”. That “defence” has been discredited for about 70 years now.

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