The Last Leg stumbles over coverage of DWP deaths

Not one of his better moments: Adam Hills hosts The Last Leg, whose segment on Iain Duncan Smith and the incapacity benefit deaths lost its footing.

Not one of his better moments: Adam Hills hosts The Last Leg, whose segment on Iain Duncan Smith and the incapacity benefit deaths lost its footing [Image not from the September 4 show].

Thank goodness the makers of one mainstream TV programme were willing to cover the release of incapacity benefit death statistics by the Department for Work and Pensions – but isn’t it a shame the coverage was derailed because of the comment they used to start the item?

One might expect The Last Leg to cover Iain Duncan Smith’s treatment of people on incapacity benefits, but it was not a certainty – This Writer was sending direct messages to the production team via Twitter in advance of the release on August 27, with no response. Has anybody seen coverage on any other mainstream UK TV programme – a news programme, possibly?

So it was a delight to see a figure of the Grim Reaper, with a photograph of the Gentleman Ranker stuck to its face, on Adam Hills’ desk in the advert that ran ahead of tonight’s (September 4) show.

Unfortunately, the producers had chosen to start the show with a comment that proved unfortunate. A viewer had tweeted to ask if it was okay that the release of the figures showed people were more likely to die after being found fit for work by the DWP than from being murdered.

This week’s guest, Lee Mack, interjected to point out that anyone who is murdered is going to be dead anyway, and that the statistical likelihood of being murdered in the UK is very small, so the comment didn’t mean very much at all.

The point that was being made – and missed by Lee – was that murder is illegal in this country. Anybody found guilty, in a court of law, of committing murder is sentenced to life imprisonment.

But it is perfectly legal to find a person with serious long-term illnesses or disabilities fit for work, cut them off from the payments to which they are entitled – and on which they rely for their continued existence, subject them to extreme stress that is likely to worsen their medical condition and seriously disturb their mental health…

… and then wait for them to die of the worsened condition – or commit suicide – and say nature took its course.

We shouldn’t blame Lee Mack. He’s a very shallow person when he’s on shows like this – and tends to say anything he thinks will get a laugh, without considering any knock-on effects. But any one of the three hosts – Mr Hills, Alex Brooker or Josh Widdicombe – would have been well within their rights to cut him short and tell him, in the words of one of the show’s catchphrases: “Don’t be a dick!”

Who knows? The interjection might turn out to be highly lucrative for Mr Mack. The DWP, at least, owes him some form of payment for the service he performed for the government and Iain Duncan Smith.

Some of us are less well-pleased.

One problem with the figures, cited by Adam Hills, was the fact that they are so vague that it is very hard to understand what they mean. But then – as mentioned at the top of this article – the production team has a direct line of contact with the person who requested those figures in the first place.

All they had to do was ask. Why didn’t they?

Still, the story isn’t over and This Writer is working hard to get more figures, along with clarity on what is already available.

Let’s hope they get it right next time.

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  1. John Syme September 4, 2015 at 11:03 pm - Reply

    Given that 1783 people were killed on UK roads in 2013, it seems being a claimant may be more dangerous than motorcycling.

    • Mike Sivier September 5, 2015 at 10:56 am - Reply

      People get very upset about the number of deaths on roads, though, don’t they?
      Why aren’t they getting upset about this?
      Anyway, the number of claimant deaths between December 2011 and February 2014 was more than 80,000 – the 2,380 is only those found fit for work, and even then only those discovered to have died within a two-week period around the end of their claim (which would have ended because they had been said to be fit for work.

  2. mili68 September 4, 2015 at 11:07 pm - Reply

    Tweeted @melissacade68

    Also, listened to you on Richie Allan radio programme posted online by DWP Reloaded by Still Oaks; the exchange between yourself and Richie was excellent, hope it turns more people onto your blogging and gets more bodies behind all we stand for, fight against and changes we advocate.

  3. hilary772013 September 4, 2015 at 11:11 pm - Reply

    Mike it SICKENS me that the TV networks are not running with this. We are supposed to have a free press in this country, surely one of the networks has the GUTS to report it seriously. We are supposed to be a democratic country but we are far from it. I just do not understand why this is happening.
    I actually wrote to the BBC some time ago because I was outraged that they covered a demonstration in Turkey whilst on the same day thousands of people were demonstrating in London against the bedroom tax and welfare cuts and there was no coverage at all & all I got was a stupid response from them. Surely all the networks are not in bed with the Tories?

    • Mike Sivier September 5, 2015 at 10:53 am - Reply

      I’m about to start working out what to say in response to the BBC’s More or Less programme yesterday, which essentially whitewashed the DWP’s statistical releases of August 27.

      • Tony Dean September 5, 2015 at 11:45 am - Reply

        For a start Mike you could mention the stats. the DWP has not released.
        Those who died between appealing a fit for work decision and a tribunal date.
        How many people parked on mandatory reconsideration have died.
        How many of the 22% found fit for work and who have disappeared, not on any other benefit and not in work.
        (That is just a few off the top of my head.)

        • Mike Sivier September 5, 2015 at 3:02 pm - Reply

          Those who died between appealing a FFW decision and a tribunal date will be among those who died after a FFW decision, as will those on mandatory reconsideration. However, you are right to point out that the government should separate these numbers out.
          I certainly agree about any claimants who appear to have gone missing.

      • Tony Dean. September 5, 2015 at 3:23 pm - Reply

        Mike those who appealed and died before a tribunal date was NOT in the DWP data release.
        The 2360 was just those who died within a few weeks of a fit for work decision.
        The waiting time for tribunals was up to a year.
        The 2360 is just the tip of a very large iceberg.

        • Mike Sivier September 5, 2015 at 5:00 pm - Reply

          That’s interesting. You see, my FoI request was very specific, and demanded the numbers of ALL incapacity benefits claimants who died between the end of November 2011 and the end of May 2014. We already know that the DWP has failed to honour that request, simply by failing to cover deaths between March and May 2014 (inclusive). Are you suggesting that the DWP also failed to honour my request by omitting many deaths that should have been included?

      • Tony Dean September 5, 2015 at 5:34 pm - Reply

        Mike the DWP has NOT answered your FOI when it comes to those who died after appealing a fit for work decision and before tribunal date.
        It is many, many thousands more than the less than 3000 who died within a few weeks of being found “fit for work.”
        There is a massive hole in the released statistics, that the DWP and IDS refuse to explain.

    • The Infamous Culex September 5, 2015 at 11:22 am - Reply

      “Surely all the networks are not in bed with the Tories?”

      No, of course they’re not.

      Some of them are getting boned whilst bent over the mixing desk.

  4. Jeffery Davies September 5, 2015 at 7:06 am - Reply

    Well we do now bbc channels four and five are run by tory supporters only real news sometimes is rt news

    • Mike Sivier September 5, 2015 at 10:52 am - Reply

      Should that be “the BBC AND Channels 4 and 5”?

  5. Kevin Scardifield September 5, 2015 at 7:40 am - Reply

    The problem is you and so many others really have no idea the definition of murder is 1.the unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another:
    and that in no way describes the situation
    What you should be pushing for is Manslaughter
    1.the crime of killing a human being without malice aforethought, or in circumstances not amounting to murder

    • Mike Sivier September 5, 2015 at 10:51 am - Reply

      You’re making a couple of mistakes there.
      Firstly, in the context of last night’s edition of The Last Leg, the point was that people are more likely to die after being declared fit for work than they are to be murdered. There’s no mention of whether the DWP, any of its ministers or employees have actually committed murder.
      Secondly, are you absolutely sure that nobody in the DWP has intended deaths to take place? There’s plenty of evidence to show that they have tried to prevent people from finding out the number of deaths – in order to allow those deaths to continue. It would be up to a court to decide whether that was murder (if it gets that far).

      • James Kirkcaldy (@Bradford_Indie) September 6, 2015 at 1:59 pm - Reply

        Mike, what you say in your reply here is one of the major points of this scandal that needs to be talked about in public more often and more vociferously.

        We know what drives suicide rates and we know a lot about the medical conditions on the type under concern, and the social and economic factors that worsen them and and bring on premature deaths. What is more, such paths to premature deaths are mentally and physically tortuous.

        Passing this all off as chance and ‘natural causes’ is a shallow, cold, callous and facetious move that ultimately will fail. We are in the ‘knowledge economy’ now and have enough understanding to be fully aware of outcomes of choices in governance before they are put into effect. There is no escaping that, and the fact that they knew people were dying prematurely and needlessly and the reasons why.

    • r0guetrooper September 5, 2015 at 11:03 am - Reply

      There’s a petition for getting the Met to investigate the government for corporate manslaughter. It probably won’t amount to anything, but it’s worth a try.

  6. Jim Round September 5, 2015 at 2:52 pm - Reply

    Well another week passes and the release of the figures continues to make a negligible impact on the Great British Public, remember what I said about a reactionist society?
    Well, it seems a picture of a drowned child can stir up feelings in some and suspicion in others.
    Deaths of benefit claimants less so.(viewing figures of pictures/videos of kittens anyone?)
    Some commenters saying how we are unable to house those looking for homes who have been here all their life, how many question the decades old infrastructure negligence and unquestioning going into needless wars costing billions to date.
    On the death figures, same suspicion
    I still maintain that you are unfortunately swimming against the tide Mike.
    Labour are still in self destruct mode at a time we need a strong and organised opposition, the majority of the MSM continues to under report, if at all, the release of the death statistics.
    I remember tweets and posts from certain bloggers saying “see you at the barricades/protest march” when The Tories won in May, how did that go?
    It really makes me wonder what ANY government of this country could get away with before a REALLY sizeable majority (say 60% plus of the adult population) took action.

    • Mike Sivier September 5, 2015 at 3:03 pm - Reply

      Even if I am swimming against the tide, that’s no reason to stop.

      • Jim Round September 6, 2015 at 12:59 pm - Reply

        As you know Mike, I have never doubted your conviction and wish you the best of luck.
        I was out and about last week and talked to about 50 people, not a huge sample, granted, but none of them had heard about this campaign. They knew that Strictly and X Factor were back on TV though??????
        My question, as ever, is what happens when all avenues have been exhausted and IDS and his cronies are still in office?
        The onslaught against the weak, disabled, poor and vulnerable continues, Jeremy Corbyn becomes Labour leader but fails to win in 2020, Labour emulate the Lib Dems and come close to irrelevance and there are hardly any public services to defend?
        Where do we go from there?
        From personal experience, the above is closer to reality than you think.

        • Mike Sivier September 7, 2015 at 9:43 am - Reply

          Strictly Come Dancing and The X Factor are major television shows that have been running in more or less the same timeslot for more than a decade each, so it should be no surprise that people knew they were on. How many of you sample knew – for example – that a new adaptation of The Go-Between is to be screened on the BBC shortly?
          Your question is academic. All avenues have not been exhausted and there is no guarantee that these people will still be untouched by the time they have. Look at the rest of your comment – you don’t know that Jeremy Corbyn will become Labour leader, and you certainly don’t know that he will lose in 2020 if he does.
          Remember, there were those who insisted that a freedom of information request about the deaths of people on incapacity benefits would not get anywhere, but now the government is facing the possibility of being in contempt of court for failing to answer in a timely – and proper – manner.

      • James Kirkcaldy (@Bradford_Indie) September 6, 2015 at 2:02 pm - Reply

        “Even if I am swimming against the tide, that’s no reason to stop.”

        Indeed! We are without opposition on the front bench at the moment and post Recess, Mike, I think all your hard work will start to reap dividends.

    • ian725 September 6, 2015 at 12:04 am - Reply

      Perhaps People find it too incredible to believe. e.g.’ A British Government could never stoop so low….. Parliament … we…. could never allow such barbarity …. after all we are ‘ ENGLISH ‘ ……. aren’t we ?

  7. Dave September 6, 2015 at 12:46 pm - Reply

    I think Josh Widdecombe did follow it up with a similar comment but the point was that the comparison hadn’t been phrased very well. What should have been said is that more people in the UK are dying after being declared fit for work than are being murdered. Statistically, therefore, the former is more likely to happen. The point Lee and Josh were making was that, if you die or are murdered, the chance of death is 100%. Having said all that, I agree that the one programme which did give this appalling policy any airtime missed the opportunity to lay into the nastiness of IDS & the Tories.

    • Mike Sivier September 7, 2015 at 9:45 am - Reply

      Isn’t that exactly what happened – and what I said?

  8. Jim Round September 7, 2015 at 3:07 pm - Reply

    With regards to Strictly and X Factor being popular shows, yes that’s true, but it is depressing where priorities lie.
    Any one of us could one day be unable to work due to illness or disability. Less likely to be sucessful on the above programmes.
    Yes, watching them is a release from day to day life, but is exactly what governments want, a dumbed down and insecure population, unable to question or protest against any legislation.
    Regarding Jeremy Corbyn, if he does not win then we are left with Tory Lite candidates, so if Labour win in 2020, it will be a continuation of Neoliberalism.
    Remember, I said the Tories would win in May, they did, right leaning parties got the majority vote.
    I have and continue to work throughout the UK, and away from Labour heartlands, they are a million miles away from being voted for in the numbers required, the upcoming return of “rotten boroughs” and Union legislation continues to hamner in the nail of Labours coffin.
    The Welsh and Scottish elections are squeaky bum time for the new leader, Scotland is all but wriiten off, but if Labour fares badly in the Welsh Assembly, alarm bells should be ringing.
    I see again that your above article about the More or Less, you have come up against the whitewash, it will keep happening. IDS and the government appear to be coated in Teflon.
    You are right, up to now, all avenues have not been exhausted, the court option is interesting but will it be long drawn out, will it need funds?
    My questions have still not been answered, IF Corbyn wins but then loses in 2020, where then for the left?
    IF all avenues DO get exhausted and The Tories and The Getleman Ranker are unmarked, the public also unmoved, what then?

    • Mike Sivier September 7, 2015 at 11:58 pm - Reply

      You’re still making assumptions that are not justified by the evidence available, Jim.

      • Jim Round September 8, 2015 at 1:50 am - Reply

        What evidence is available?
        The evidence I can see from your own articles shows that you have mostly had to write to ask the likes of the BBC, Full Fact etc… to correct their articles.
        I will state again, I was right about The Tories winning in May and despite Wales getting hammered by Westminster, Labour are in real danger of losing the assembly, remember, The Tories gained Welsh seats in May.
        Right leaning parties got more votes than left leaning parties, Britain is a small c Conservative country.
        Protests against the government have either failed to get off the ground or petered out through lack of numbers.
        As I said, through work I travel the length and breadth of the UK and keep an open ear to the “word on the street”
        I can provide a lot more evidence, both personal and from other news/articles.
        Put it this way, if I was a lot younger, I would not be staying in the UK.
        Let me put my questions another way, what is your personal opinion on what will happen if Corbyn wins on Saturday but loses in 2020?
        Also, if the benefit deaths release has no effect on the government and the wider public?
        My view on the above is that unless capitalism comes really crashing down, (2008 was just a tickle) with unemployment figures going above 3 million, (yes, I know current figures are manipulated) property prices lose over 50 percent of their value and interest rates go over 5 percent and a crash for those who have seen their wealth increase due to capitalism.
        We need to see an end to FPTP, and move away from a London/SE led country and economy, then, and only then, will we see change.
        (Don’t forget, it took WW2 last time, current world events and all that)

        • Mike Sivier September 8, 2015 at 11:23 pm - Reply

          I think Corbyn will win on Saturday. I hope Labour will win in 2020, and suspect that this will be made possible because Corbyn will have encouraged many millions of people who lost faith in Labour to return, along with a large proportion of those who have not bothered to vote in recent years because they found nothing in the policies of any party that they could support. I think you are relying on unrepresentative evidence to support your suggestions.

  9. mrmarcpc September 7, 2015 at 3:58 pm - Reply

    I’d expected better from the lads of the Last Leg but seems they’re ignorant and lack compassion to the real plight of the many thousands of people who are suffering in this country due to the fascist regime that is the tory party, you preach about Leg Up yet showed no sympathy to the people who are truly suffering, bad show boys, should be ashamed of yourselves!

  10. mrmarcpc September 8, 2015 at 1:40 pm - Reply

    I wasn’t aware that many people think that Lee Mack is very shallow, comes across as quite affable and a genuine bloke to me but I do agree that he, like the Last Leg boys, didn’t cover himself in glory, seemed to make fun to like they did, again bad show lads, you should practice what you preach!
    Is there any way of us letting them know there are many like us who were disgusted by their behaviour?

  11. AndyH September 10, 2015 at 6:32 pm - Reply

    Was that it then? Mack makes one crap joke (to hell with people suffering) and the matter gets dropped?

  12. AndyH September 10, 2015 at 6:36 pm - Reply

    I once posted an article. on a disability forum, about a woman who had died after being declared fit for work. An admin removed it claiming the woman would have died anyway – this is missing the point – anyone on the brink of death is not fit for work after all (certainly no-one will give you a job if you drop dead at any moment).

  13. AndyH September 10, 2015 at 7:01 pm - Reply

    I wonder if Another Angry Voice would be interested in creating an infograph – he has more likes on facebook than Private Eye after all.

    • Mike Sivier September 13, 2015 at 1:02 pm - Reply

      Have you asked? I’d do it but I’m often too busy to make them (shame really – if I made as many as AAV, VP might be as popular).

      • AndyH September 13, 2015 at 5:28 pm - Reply

        I’ll post a comment on his blog. I could try and put something together if you like.

      • AndyH September 13, 2015 at 5:32 pm - Reply

        I’ve tweeted AAV. In the meantime I’ll try and put something together for my own blog (which is currently in the alpha stages, but I’ll see what I can do).

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