It seems clear that the new ‘statistical releases’ from the Department for Work and Pensions aren’t worth the immense amount of time they took to prepare – other than as tools for confusion and corruption.
In the three days since they have been released, there has been confusion in the media about their interpretation, and dissent in the social media about how they may be used. Meanwhile, the DWP has withdrawn its appeal against my Freedom of Information request, claiming that it has provided all the facts I wanted. Iain Duncan Smith is no doubt delighted.
Here’s something to make him choke on it: The DWP has not provided all the facts I wanted and my FoI request has yet to be fully addressed.
I am well within my right to contact the First-tier Tribunal (information rights) and demand that the hearing scheduled for November 10 go ahead, allowing me access to the full range of data I wanted, and to question DWP lawyers in order to clarify the information that was released on Thursday (August 27).
This writer has examined some of the information provided in the DWP’s release of Age-Standardised Mortality Rates, and has been able to compare the background information with the facts (if we can call them that) in its attempted response to my FoI request. They don’t all add up – and where they do, the results are horrifying.
For example, it seems we now have an answer to a question that has disturbed many of us ever since the DWP’s first ‘ad hoc’ statistical release, Incapacity Benefits: Deaths of recipients was released on July 9, 2012. The request stated: “Can you please provide me with the number of ESA claimants who have died in 2011?” But the response provided figures only to the end of November that year – a total of 10,600, equating to around 32 deaths per day or 222 per week.
The supporting tables for Mortality statistics: Out-of-Work Working Age benefit claimants show that the total number of deaths in 2011 was 13,490 – implying that a staggering 2,890 ESA claimants died in December that year alone.
That is more than 93 deaths every day – almost 653 per week – during the so-called festive season. Vox Political has previously pointed out that the period leading up to Christmas every year is a known suicide hotspot, but a near-tripling of the ESA death rate is appalling.
No wonder the DWP withheld it from the ‘ad hoc’ statistical release. Any claim that the information was not available in time for the release, which took place no less than half a year later is clearly not credible.
Another interesting aspect of the DWP’s statistical legerdemain is its curious inconsistency about the benefits to which its figures refer. Note that the figures in the 2012 statistical release showed 10,600 deaths among ESA claimants only. The same release responded to a question about “the number of Incapacity Benefit claimants who have died in 2009, 2010 and 2011” with figures covering IB, SDA and ESA for what we may believe to be the tax years 2008-9, 2009-10 and 2010-11 (“data is sourced from quarterly point in time data… for example 2010/11 includes the quarters May 2010, August 2010, November 2010 and February 2011”) – but even then the reference is vague enough for this not to be accurate. Why not just say, “this refers to the tax years in question, rather than the calendar years”? In any case, the question is not answered because it referred to calendar years and the answer referred to a different period.
Returning to the final question to which that statistical release responds, “Can you please provide me with the number of ESA claimants who have died in 2011?” the answer refers only to ESA claimants – and, caveats about the period covered by the response aside – you may feel that it is justified.
However, in response to my own question regarding the number of IB and ESA claimants who have died since November 2011, the DWP chose to include not only IB and ESA claimants but also those on SDA. I didn’t ask for SDA figures – perhaps I should have – but the DWP provided them anyway. Since it was so obliging for me, why could it not be similarly obliging for the previous requester?
Now, dear reader, you may feel that this is needlessly picky, considering the new releases contain death figures for people on IB/SDA during 2011. The trouble is, we can’t trust them.
We know from the background information that the DWP’s statistics on the total incapacity benefits population counts people only once, even if they claimed both IB/SDA and ESA in the same year – which is possible as people began to migrate from the old system of benefits to the new. This should not affect the number of deaths; if you die on IB/SDA, you won’t have made it onto ESA – right?
But the DWP figures show that if you add deaths on IB/SDA to deaths on ESA, the totals for each year are greater than the total number of deaths recorded for the whole population. In 2009 there were 80 more deaths, in 2010 there were 50. For 2011: 640. For 2012: 1,880. And for 2013: 1,330 more deaths.
Ian Fleming may have said “You only live twice” but, according to the DWP, it seems you can die twice as well.
This means that, although we now have IB/SDA death figures for 2011, we cannot add them to the number of ESA deaths to get an accurate figure. The total would be a horrifying 38,270 – but this is 640 higher than the equally-horrifying total of 37,630 provided by the DWP elsewhere. Which do we believe?
(For information, you may remember that the figures for ESA alone, producing a death rate of 32 per day/222 per week, sparked a horrified public reaction which led to the DWP’s moratorium on providing further figures – a ban it took myself and my fellow campaigners more than three years to break. Add in the lower set of IB/SDA figures and we have a death rate of 103 per day/nearly 722 per week. The higher set of figures raises this to nearly 105 per day/734 per week. No wonder those figures weren’t released in 2012 – the outcry would have been overwhelming.)
Sadly, for the purposes of calculating whether the current system is needlessly harmful to benefit claimants, This Writer does not believe the figures for IB/SDA are useful. In fact, they muddy the issue because, taken together with the figures for ESA, they show the total incapacity benefits population has stayed more or less consistent over the years since ESA was introduced, at around three million people. The number of deaths has done roughly the same thing.
a) We know that the Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition government adopted harsh new assessment policies from 2011 onwards, which meant many more people were refused incapacity benefits than previously. I am told that the number of refusals in 2013 was almost 750,000, although this included repeat claims so the figure cannot be used to calculate the number of claimants who were refused. Still, that’s a very large figure.
How many of those people have died? We don’t know. The DWP provided figures for ESA and IB/SDA “off flows with a date of death at the same time” who had been classified “fit for work”, but this relates to people who died up to 14 days (in the case of ESA claimants) or 42 days (for IB/SDA claimants) after the claim ended. Some commenters have quibbled over what this means, but their comments are irrelevant; these people were found fit for work and then died – which tends to prove they weren’t. What happened to all the people who were found fit for work but didn’t die within the period of the DWP’s “regular scans” (as the process is described in the new statistical release)? We don’t know. The DWP has said it does not monitor what happens to them. Some may have claimed JSA, in which case it may be possible to find out what happened to them – but there may remain a large number whose fate will be a permanent mystery – unless, perhaps, Parliament launches an investigation.
b) The fates of those who have successfully claimed ESA provide an opportunity for us to ask some pertinent questions.
We can see that, between 2012 and 2013, the support group grew by 81 per cent, while the number of deaths increased by 54 per cent. The support group was the hardest to join after Iain Duncan Smith introduced his changes in 2011; it includes people with degenerative conditions, terminal illnesses and severe disabilities, many of whom are likely to die during the period of their claim. But this does not mean that all the deaths in that group are due to what we might describe as “natural causes”. We have heard many examples of DWP harassment that harms the health of people in the support group or pushes them to suicide. We have no reason to believe they are lies. Therefore the conduct of the DWP towards people in this group requires much closer scrutiny.
Moving on to the work-related activity group – this is for claimants the DWP consider will be capable of work in the future and may take steps towards moving into work (work-related activities) immediately. In other words, this is the group in which people are admittedly ill, but are expected to get better. Between 2012 and 2013, this group grew by nine per cent – but the number of deaths increased by 24 per cent, from 2,990 to 3,720. This is in a group where people are not expected to die due to their condition. Other commenters have pointed out that it is wrong to expect none of these people to die, and they are correct. If this group was populated according to its stated aims, they would have a slightly lower chance of dying as anybody else in the general population (as benefit claimants, they wouldn’t be subject to all the same risks). The general population has a 0.19 per cent chance of death, according to the DWP’s own figures. In 2013, the work-related activity group had a population of 596,010, which would suggest the total number of deaths should have been less than 1,132. When the actual number of deaths is more than three times more than what we should expect, it’s time to demand reasons.
Between 2012 and 2013 the number of people in the assessment phase of ESA increased by two per cent, while the number of deaths increased by six per cent. Assessment has been the subject of considerable scrutiny over the last few years, with a new ‘mandatory reconsideration’ stage introduced after claimants were shown to be winning a remarkably large number of appeals against adverse decisions. The aim of this stage is generally accepted as being to discourage people who have been found fit for work from arguing against the decision (isn’t it right that they get no benefit during the reconsideration period?) therefore the size of the assessment phases population and the number of deaths within it are both likely to be affected and the information we have is suspect.
Then we have the claims marked ‘unknown’. According to the DWP, “Where the claimant is not in receipt of any benefit payment, such as ESA (Credits only), then the phase is shown as unknown. This is opaque. It seems likely that these are people whose entitlement to contribution-based ESA has run out but are still entitled to National Insurance credits. Some commenters have speculated that it may also include people who have been sanctioned, but This Writer’s understanding is that NI credits are suspended when a sanction is imposed.
In 2012, the number of claimants marked ‘unknown’ was 207,390 – of whom 1,550 died. The following year, membership of this group had dropped to 172,670 – that’s an impressive 17 per cent fall. But the number of deaths had increased to 1,810 – a shocking 13 per cent increase on the previous year.
This suggests that people in the work-related activity group (they tend to be on contributory ESA) are being left with nothing (but NI credits) after their 365-day period is over – so they die.
This seems to demand the most serious scrutiny.
Does anybody disagree?
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I’m only speaking for myself Mike but my brain is starting to shut down on this issue, because I don’t understand much of this article.
Not your fault, my education has been non-existent, that it has been a long struggle to comprehend even the simplest article, it may as well be in a foreign language sometimes. Again totally not your fault, but I will definitely keep reading and trying to understand, because I love learning, I’m just not very good at it.
I hope you have a great weekend and Thank you for fighting for us
Mike thanks for your perseverance, intellect and courage. It’s not easy (in fact it is near bl–dy impossible) for an individual to cause the ‘machine’ the degree of ‘stress’ that you have. You qualify for the distinction of a ‘gad fly’, on the back of the state, which is how Socrates described himself.
Joanna, you statistics may not be great, but your honesty is certainly is. In addition you are smart enough not to fall for the lies peddled by most politicians and England’s media barons, which can be stated for around 25% of the U.K. population.
The detail of this sorry affair is complex: not just the statistics but also their application within the rules of ‘accounting’ adopted by the DWP and how both relate to Mike’s F.O.I request. I suspect it is that complexity, which the DWP intends to hide behind -by confusing the general public and journalists (though some in the media may be willingly ignorant; after all it’s only the loss of ordinary people’s lives we are trying to find the truth about – not decent types, like those who went to a public school). I guess, they will try and state something along the lines it’s too difficult, too expensive to collect and, is this this man not being obsessive . . . .. blah, blah, blah. No doubt scenarios have been imagined, and tried out against various strategies – they’ve certainly had enough time as its taken years to get this far!
Well done, Mike
Perhaps I am being obsessive. If the alternative is allowing the Tory government to send thousands upon thousands of people to their deaths, then a little obsessive behaviour seems exactly what is needed.
As always mike your findings are the same as mine
I am very glad that you have had the patience and rigour to examine the figured closely Mr Sivier.
I have said from the outset that we should not place any reliance on DWP figures until the have been validated by the ONS.
How can we interest ONS in checking the numbers and offering a view as to whether they comply with your request and the Information Commissioner’s Order?
Mike, thank you so much for sifting through everything and writing your blogs. It is so annoying that the Government is using television to show benefit claimants in a dark light whilst not reporting any of this information on TV. It just goes to prove the Government use propaganda! This is dreadful and if it wasn’t for you and others like you we would all be in the dark. What is more dreadful is that those who do not read your information believe what the Government put out. Those who do not use social media need to be informed another way, TV should be used. How can we stop the Government from preventing this.
I am not in the least bit surprised by the ‘revelations’ contained in this ‘report’. From the many, many, instances of these untimely deaths, some of which were deemed msm newsworthy, the ordinary people could see that something was terribly wrong with the ideologies of this totalitarian regime! To have the Dept of Work and Pensions dealing with, what was once known as, Social Security, is an anathema. The operative word is – work – which is the sole propellant of this department, whether or not claimants are actually able to work or not. So, for whatever reason, claimants are subject to assessments on their work capability, and if this work Dept decided under their non-medical and dogmatic criteria, that a claimant was able to work, the claimant would not get any Social Security payments, being left to either starve to death, or commit suicide.
Keep pushing until u get everything u want Mike
I totally agree all your data challenges and wish you sucess with Tribunal route for better access to information. Getting truthful info out of the Government is like trying to herd cats despite the promise to make all Government data more accurate and transparent. This subject has still not made the big ticket headlines with some of the press, especially if they are Pro-Conservative, reporting different analysis approaches..
I was an IB to ESA migrator in December 2011, I’m still alive happily, although after being on contribution-based IB for 6 years and in the process of trying to return to HE it was incredibly stressful to be told I was not eligible for CB-ESA.
My WBA awarded me a total of 0 points from a nurse with no mental health knowledge, the benefit assessors score was not even filled in. The fact I had filled in the ESA form (ignored fact it was very late) and attended my WBA alone (rearranged twice and got there late) and was studying on a p/t access course were evidenced as proof of fitness for work, as were “being able to sit through the interview”. Continual tremor and agitation was noted but ignored (as computer says only rocking counts as sign of Mental health problem).
My appeal took 14 months, appeal Dr “if you can hold a pen in one hand and make a recognisable mark” 0 pts. “Why aren’t you taking Benzodiazepines for chronic pain?” Me “because they are addictive and I wouldn’t have a clue what I was doing” 0 pts. “You can get up 4 mornings a week” 0 pts.
I asked “what job is suitable for someone who could scratch an X on a piece of paper , once, was pumped up on addictive tranqs and only turned up 3 days out of 5, (other than “the house of lords”) because I honestly hadn’t seen the adverts anywhere. He replied this process has nothing to do with finding available jobs. I was awarded 9 pts by appeal but still was denied what I had paid for in my NI conts for 10 years.
I had a future in HE to look forward to regardless, although the stress nearly caused me to fail. I can’t think of the despair people without that way out had to deal with. You are doing a brilliant job, keep going.
Ben Goldacre has written a piece on this: https://storify.com/bengoldacre/how-dwp-has-confused-everyone-by-releasing-the-rig
I think he’s saying broadly the same thing but I’m not sure what he meant by the denominator (time period) against deaths bit. As I read it, the rate was derived from total number of deaths in the year over, well, the year.
Sorry if this doesn’t make much sense, I’m bad with statistics.
He makes a few fundamental mistakes, doesn’t he.
I didn’t want to know whether the death rate among people found FFW was higher than the general population – I wanted to know how many people had died after the DWP found them FFW. The DWP has not answered the question because it only refers to people who died in a two-week ‘scan’ period. I wanted to know how many people had died in total. DWP says it doesn’t follow up on people who are thrown off-benefit but that doesn’t matter because the decision against them, as upheld by the Information Commissioner, demanded the full number of deaths. DWP has withdrawn its appeal against that decision so must, legally, provide the total number of people who have died after a FFW decision.
Mr Goldacre is another fan of ASMRs, I see. Perhaps that’s why he misinterpreted the question.
I am very glad you are on the ball, Sir.
I think BG is saying what I was trying to a few days ago. I would love it if you could chat to him. Any chance of arranging an interview? I think it would be massively helpful to getting to the bottom of how bad this system is.
To what end? He is mistaken.
It would seem to be useful to compare the death rate among people found fit for work with that of the general population ( http://ons.gov.uk/ons/publications/re-reference-tables.html?edition=tcm%3A77-370351 )
Could information be extracted from the publicly available data such that a simple statement could be made comparing the two?
I took a look but was a bit confused. Perhaps you could? Imagine if we can prove simply that (for example) twice as many people died after being found fit for work when compared to those in employment. Sources would have to be posted along with method I guess.
We don’t have the full figures on ‘fit for work’ deaths yet – the DWP provided only the fraction who died while still being monitored by that government department.
It’s provable that the ESA death rate is something like four times the national average, and the death rate in some of the groups even higher – in the work-related activity group it’s six times the national average.
“To what end? He is mistaken.”
For the purpose of getting someone who’s career is largely based on epidemiology together with someone who if they are correct can help save lives. Seems like a good fit to me.
Not if one of them is wrong!
I suppose you could be right. There’s no point in speaking to wrong people because they don’t know they’re wrong and can definitely not be convinced by evidence to change their mind.
That’s not true – of course people can be persuaded, unless they have psychological problems. However, that is not what you were proposing.
I was proposing you speak to him to understand why he thinks the release doesn’t say what you think it says.
Looks like a disagreement to me, so one of you is wrong (or one is misunderstanding the other) and a dialogue would help the wrong one understand why they are wrong and enable the campaign to move forward effectively.
I still think a chat/interview would be highly beneficial to help address the injustices. Maybe I’m wrong but BG would make an excellent ally.
He has also updated the storify to include what he thinks is necessary. I think he is right but then I am not an epidemiologist (just a short course on statistics nearly 20 years ago).
Anyway, I feel I’ve said enough and I’m wary of taking up your time as I think you’re doing great work. I don’t think it would hurt to reach out to him but if you disagree I won’t labour the point.
It’s not a disagreement; he’s mistaken. Pure and simple. I know what the release says and doesn’t say; I’m the person who wrote the Freedom of Information request.
I can tell you think he is right, and consider that to be very strange, since you’ve read what I have had to say. Perhaps you’re just seeing what you want? Some of us don’t have that option.
investigation into human rights abuses by UN! nice job, keep it up!
Not my doing. 🙂
Mike, you say “Some commenters have speculated that it may also include people who have been sanctioned, but This Writer’s understanding is that NI credits are suspended when a sanction is imposed.” —- Forgive any lack of knowledge on my part but I’m left with a question: I’ve always understood that our final pension rate is based on NI contributions and that any break in those contributions potentially lowers that pension rate. If that is the case, then aren’t people being effectively punished twice for the same ‘crime’ and the second punishment is saved for when you retire? As I say, I’m far from knowledgeable on that aspect. Can you clarify in any way for us? Thanks. And thank you whole-heartedly for all your efforts over the last few years.
My understanding is that the answer to your question would be: Yes.
Just a string of expletives spring to mind. A whole new can of worms?
IDS is trying to pull a flanker on us, no surprise there I suppose.
After being outwitted by Mike and over-ruled by the Information Commissioner he’s obviously had a session with his SPADS & lawyers asking “How the **** can we mitigate the loss of STOCK now that I’ve been ordered to release these numbers?”
So IDS and his band of b*****ds has come up with “You know what boss? How about we just give them some numbers that cover a few weeks and call it our scan time”
RESULT! says IDS. “That ****ing Sivier and his followers will be stuffed now, he’ll have to accept these numbers now and we can just crack on with denying everything”
Shame IDS hasnt learned how tenacious you are Mike, and Thank God for us you are, so please go after him again at the Tribunal.
I bet that’s what he calls me, too – “That ****ing Sivier”!
… although I wouldn’t expect anyone to think of themselves as my followers (except in the loose sense of following the blog).
Hi Mike looking at your figures you are right they dont seem to match up at all.
Mortality Statistics: ESA, IB, and SDA seem to be almost double the mortality for the general population as worked out by the ONS, If this is the case it is worst than you are predicting. I think there has been a lot of tinkering like showing the figures as parts per 100,000 then changing to parts per 1,000 making the figures seem closer when they are no where near. The sooner there is a high level investigation the better and bring IDS, Freud etc down on their knees and sack the incompetents.
The DWP is now based on lies and deception, I do not believe anything that comes out of any government press office.
All these DWP figures are, is third rate mish mash to get everyone running around like headless chickens to try and get to the bottom of a very big pit of cow slurry.
Its all one big game to the likes of IDS, and he is loving very second of it.
IDS threw one big juicy bone to the public regarding the statistics, and while everyone is ripping it apart and giving themselves headaches, he can get on in the shadows and do what he does best……..rip into everything else.
They have been proven liars, the false flags have been constantly waving in the wind, why the hell should anyone be gullible enough to believe any kind of figures or statistics that come out of that office.
They have an agenda ….and they are sticking to it, come hell or high water.
However kudos to you mike and everyone else who has the stamina and determination to get to the bottom of this very messy pile of s***e.
I was wondering if you plan to tackle the equally damaging disability living allowance cuts which i, myself, have had the misfortune of running the gauntlet with. I am housebound and haven’t left the house since early January as i have no access to any transport and as I’m unable to walk very far, i can’t use the bus service. And i certainly can’t afford taxi’s. I live roughly 10 miles from any family or friends so i feel totally isolated. I went through the appeal system about a yr ago and was left feeling like a criminal and generally a pathalogical liar. Either way, keep up the good work!!
It’s definitely worth consideration. Trouble is, I wouldn’t want to confuse one topic with the other and they are very similar, about a similar (indeed, overlapping) group of people. We can try, though.
“According to the DWP, “Where the claimant is not in receipt of any benefit payment, such as ESA (Credits only), then the phase is shown as unknown. This is opaque. It seems likely that these are people whose entitlement to contribution-based ESA has run out but are still entitled to National Insurance credits.”
Not just contribution-based ESA, I think you also fall into it if you have the underlying entitlement to ESA but your partner works and takes it over the threshold for income-based. So you effectively get a zero amount, but your NI contributions are credited. I didn’t realise it at the time this applied to me, but now that I know it goes on the system as ‘unknown’ it may explain why they suddenly stopped my claim – only for months later when they got to the bottom of it they said ‘we agree it shouldn’t have been stopped, and we don’t know why it was.’
No… you wouldn’t if you’re putting lots of ‘unknowns’ into the system for what phase someone’s claim is at…. it encourages mistakes and confusion.
That would also explain why people actually survive being classified as ‘unknown’.
Thank you, Mike, for having the determination to plough through all this and to keep fighting for those who can’t fight for themselves. Please keep up the good work!
I was looking forward to the statistical breakdown. Thanks for doing it.
It’s only a second glance. I’m sure there’s more to be had from it.
Good blog post today, Mike.
It certainly isn’t obsessive or excessive to ask for clarification on these statistics or for *the missing information which you explicitly requested*. It is simply right that you should do so.
I’ve played about with the numbers and even simple addition of the numbers in several categories don’t equal totals. That had led me to think that either statistics are missing, categories are missing, or some overlap of numbers has occurred, resulting in some numbers used twice for different categories. The data really doesn’t make sense.
So, when I read one of your previous blogs’ comments (27/08, ‘Known Number of…’) that your information request was answered fully, I thought, now wait a minute, I don’t think it has been.
I’m actually pleased that you have come to the conclusion that the response to your FoI has not been fulfilled, that DWP has not answered your question.
Now to tribunal; as you say DWP has withdrawn its appeal against release of the statistics, so now must comply. It will be interesting to see the two sets of data side-by-side when DWP is told that it must release the data *you requested*.
As always Mike you have done a great job. You, like I did, expected the statistical chicanery. Somewhere in this mess of potage lies the real truth. Overall the number of deaths bears out our worst fears. Let’s hope the UN can sort it out long-term. The political mood has changed significantly in recent months and you can be sure of one thing, despite the MSM’s collusion with IDS, this is not going to go away.
Just a thought Mike what about a FOI request via HMRC on NI numbers of benefit claimants that have been reallocate or destroyed. This would be more accurate of death rates if it can be linked to paymasters office. Or would they accuse you of being vexatious or in your case Voxatious
I’m not sure it would be clear how the numbers were closed.
Keep up the fight that you’re doing Mike, hear the UN is having a go at IDS and co over this and the bedroom tax, not before time too!
“Ian Fleming may have said “You only live twice” but, according to the DWP, it seems you can die twice as well.”
Maybe an acknowledgement that life on benefits (particularly long-term) is not far short of a living death.
Alas, this is idiocy. You can’t be on IB/SDA and ESA at the same time, so there’s no reason for anybody to appear to die twice. The DWP’s figures are wrong, and therefore misleading.