Sanctions: do they affect ESA claimants terminally?

ESA sanctions ranked by disability: Notice that mental illness attracts by far the largest number of sanctions. Aren't these the people who are most likely to commit suicide in such circumstances?

ESA sanctions ranked by disability: Notice that mental illness attracts by far the largest number of sanctions. Aren’t these the people who are most likely to commit suicide in such circumstances? [Image: ITV]

The Department for Work and Pensions, last November, released alarming details showing how sanctions against people in the Work-Related Activity Group of Employment and Support Allowance have increased over the past few years. Would you like to see what they showed when compared with the death rates that were published last month?

Of course you would.

In 2011, the number of sanctions was 4,471. We don’t have a death rate for the whole year but can say that between January and November that year, there were 4,003 sanctions and 1,300 deaths.

In 2012, the number of sanctions increased by a massive 184 per cent, to 12,708. The number of deaths more than doubled, to 2,990 (up 130 per cent). There were 545,980 people in the WRAG, meaning an average of one sanction for every 43 people.

In 2013, the number of sanctions increased again, nearly doubling to 22,963 (up 79 per cent on 2012 and a staggering 410 per cent more than in 2011). The number of deaths increased by 24 per cent, to 3,720. The WRAG population had increased to 596,010 (up by nine per cent).

We can see that the proportion of deaths has outstripped the growth of the WRAG, while the number of sanctions has skyrocketed; in the first six months of 2014 the number of sanctions had already passed the total for 2013 and stood at 25,011 by the end of June.

The DWP will say this means nothing.

The Blog says it means serious questions may now be asked about the validity of sanctions and their effect on the health of claimants. Certainly there are mitigating factors, such as the rise in the ESA population due to migration from IB/SDA (but does this actually make the figures any less shocking?) and the fact that the results of mandatory reconsiderations were not included in the sanction figures, meaning they are slightly (but only slightly) higher than the number of sanctions that were actually imposed. Remember, this information has become available shortly after the DWP was revealed to have fabricated testimonies claiming that sanctions actually helped jobseekers back into work – not the same group of people, for sure, but setting a dangerous precedent.

Now we need to know how many people died after a sanction had been imposed, the nature of their illness, and the number of sanctions that had been imposed on them when they died. For clarity, it seems sensible to have that information presented month-by-month, in the same way the DWP’s November 2014 release on sanctions presents its information.

Does anybody have any suggestions that would improve a request for this information?

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  1. marcusdemowbray September 8, 2015 at 10:47 am - Reply

    I believe that there was once another regime which ruled by dictat, denied basic human rights, enslaved a large chunk of their workforce then bullied, sanctioned and killed any who could not attain the expected productivity, whilst using every trick in the propaganda book to cover up, deny and mislead the general population that this was happening.

    UK went to war with that regime from 1939 to 1945.

    The Tories still regard Churchill as the greatest ever British leader who led the battle.

    They Tories have now effectively become the exact same enemy as Churchill stood against.

  2. Maria Nelson September 8, 2015 at 10:53 am - Reply

    its not just esa wrag/jsa thats comitting suicide it will be esa fearing failing medicals and being left in limbo for up to two years not actually knowing due to backlogue of up to 2 years of when our medical will occur, not being abled to relax re the letter that sort of stress is immense when we know they are again trying to make it more difficult to pass. under these lot we’ll have to be dead in our bed to claim i do hope you will be writing to un if you haven’t already . thanks for the hard work.

  3. shaun-j September 8, 2015 at 11:01 am - Reply

    This is journalism at its best: investigative, innovative, important and inclusive. Needless to say, I found it inspiring.

  4. Samuel Miller September 8, 2015 at 11:05 am - Reply

    The DWP has admitted that 10 of the 49 benefit claimants whose deaths were subject to internal reviews had had their payments sanctioned.

  5. dez chandler September 8, 2015 at 11:12 am - Reply

    The double whammy,that makes this depressing data more likely, is that mental health is the poorest supported NHS service with cutbacks and difficulty in recruiting staff. When these vulnerable folk get such a negative set back in their lives they will not be seen very quickly to give them support and help…..

  6. Tony Dean September 8, 2015 at 11:51 am - Reply

    Mike ask:”Does anybody have any suggestions that would improve a request for this information?”

    Not that I can post on an internet forum Mike.

  7. Ros Reynolds September 8, 2015 at 1:06 pm - Reply

    Thank you for fighting our corner. My money was stopped in oct 2014 and I did not get NYTHING until END july 2015. It was all put on hold until me appeal was heard, thus making me Guilty before innocent. in that time I had a total breakdown, was driven to attempted suicide with nothing coming in, demands for money, worry of losing my home and nothing to live for. DWP drove me over the edge and caused me to build up a mountain of debt on credit cards to survive! OK I won my appeal, but now I have to pay of my debt they forced me into and I am now have PTSD. I have Aspergers, POTS, a tumor on my spine and mental health issues.
    I do not have the strength or mental capacity to fight these people. So thank you for your hard work and doing it for me

  8. mohandeer September 8, 2015 at 1:49 pm - Reply

    If a person is found fit for work, gets put on JSA, too ill to attend Job Centre, is sanctioned, loses their home and eventually dies as a “homeless” person he/she will not show up on any DWP statistics. Their answer will be “nothing to do with us” but if the homeless deaths are due to negligence on the part of the DWP and the Welfare State, then they are indirectly responsible and directly culpable in contributing to that death. All homeless deaths are given a PM but none of that information will be included in stats relating to benefit assessment stats.
    This is just one example of how easy it is to circumvent responsibility which the government is so predisposed towards. No accurate accounting will cover the many scenarios which if worked backwards, would lead straight to the door of the DWP and WCA’s.

  9. Neilth September 8, 2015 at 2:18 pm - Reply

    Perhaps we need a classification of causes of death. Simply talking about raw numbers isn’t that helpful. Some deaths will not be a direct consequence of the abusive treatment by the DWP and they will massage the figures in such a way as to indicate that the death rate is not out of line with the expected death rate in the population as a whole. We believe that many of these deaths are directly related to the unreasonable and unremitting stress imposed by the DWP so cause of death is crucial.
    Age is also crucial as those subject to DWPs injustices will come from a narrower but generally more vigorous group due to their age range than the population as a whole or even the working population as a whole due to the skewed demographics where the average age of those who are unemployed is younger than the average age of the working population. I think this is true but only from observation and anecdotal ‘evidence’ I would be happy to be corrected if I am wrong.

    • Mike Sivier September 8, 2015 at 11:14 pm - Reply

      DWP doesn’t collect information on causes of death.
      Ludicrous, isn’t it?
      Some might say, deliberate.
      I’ll include the ages of the dead.

  10. Barry September 8, 2015 at 2:18 pm - Reply

    Lets be honest with no means of support, and being unable to work, or even commit a crime to get money is never going to be a positive healthy outcome.

  11. mrmarcpc September 10, 2015 at 4:32 pm - Reply

    Regardless if you’re on ESA, JSA or something else, everyone is suffering because of what the tories are getting away with, the real death toll is disgusting and something more should be done about what they’re doing because they are literally getting away with murder!

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