This is how the DWP denies responsibility for claimant deaths

[Image: Black Triangle Campaign]

[Image: Black Triangle Campaign]

The Department for Work and Pensions has made a desperate attempt to deny responsibility for causing the deaths of an unknown number of former incapacity benefits claimants, in a recent email to This Writer.

The DWP has written to me in a new attempt to wriggle out of providing a full response to my Freedom of Information request about the deaths of claimants. I have already discussed one aspect of this letter in a previous article. A representative of the Department (who goes unnamed in the letter – it seems they are all terrified of telling me who they are), responding to my assertion that a recent statistical release has misrepresented the full extent of the deaths caused by DWP decisions, stated:

“You requested information in respect of ESA and IB claimants who had died, broken down into various categories. This is what the Department has provided. An individual who is no longer an ESA or IB claimant does not fall within the scope of your request.”

Oh, really?

It seems this is an attempt to trap me by sticking to the exact wording of the request. But what was my request, again? Dated May 28, 2014, it was: “Please provide the number of Incapacity Benefit and Employment and Support Allowance claimants who have died since November 2011.”

So I can refute the DWP’s claims with one name: Michael O’Sullivan.

That was the real name of ‘Mr A’, a disabled man whose suicide north London coroner Mary Hassall ruled in early 2014 was a direct result of being found ‘fit for work’ after a DWP work capability assessment to determine whether he should receive Employment and Support Allowance. The DWP is legally responsible for causing his death.

Mr O’Sullivan’s death took place in late 2013, six months after the work capability assessment. This means he was an Employment and Support Allowance claimant between November 2011 and May 28, 2014, and that he died between those dates.

He clearly falls “within the scope” of my request. Look at it again if you have any doubts.

Where does Mr O’Sullivan appear in the DWP’s figures, published on August 27, this year? He doesn’t.

This is how the DWP hides the meaning of its ‘fit for work’ decisions. If the DWP is able to run a claimant off-benefit, using its spurious ‘biopsychosocial’ method of assessment that attempts to claim most illnesses are only figments of the imagination (seriously!), then the Department claims anything happening to that person afterwards is none of its business.

But the coroner’s ruling makes nonsense of that claim.

Now, it could be argued that this was just one man and we have no reason to believe that anyone else died in similar circumstances; perhaps the DWP will try that one on us.

The answer is – of course – that, conversely, we have no reason to believe that nobody else died in similar circumstances either, without any evidence to prove it. Where is the evidence, one way or the other? If the DWP doesn’t have any, then we are looking at a serious case of negligence – because of the responsibility identified by the coroner. If an investigation discovers that further deaths have taken place, then corporate manslaughter charges should be laid.

In fact, we should question why corporate manslaughter charges have not already been laid, as a result of Mr O’Sullivan’s case.

For these reasons, I am sticking by the words I wrote in my email to the Information Commissioner’s Office of September 2, to which the DWP was responding (inadequately):

“The DWP provides only information on those found fit for work, or with an appeal completed against a fit for work decision, who died within an extremely limited period of time after the decision was made and their claim was ended. That is not what I requested, nor is it what the Information Commissioner’s ruling demands. In withdrawing its appeal, the DWP has agreed to provide the number of people who died between December 1, 2011 and May 28, 2014 – including all those who died between those dates after a ‘fit for work’ decision, not just those yielded up by the “regular scans” mentioned in the footnotes to the statistical release provided on August 27.

“I await those figures. I will not accept any excuses about the cost of producing them. By withdrawing its appeal, the DWP has undertaken to provide them, as demanded in the Information Commissioner’s ruling of April 30.

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11 thoughts on “This is how the DWP denies responsibility for claimant deaths

  1. Nick

    My specialty topic has always been forensic pathology and what i have always wonted to understand is how so many hundreds of sick and disabled people have come to die so soon having been told that they were fit for work

    The main questions that Jeremy Corbyn needs to ask are how did these deaths come about was is just bad luck or did gross negligence play a part also was there criminal negligence at work here whereby the DWP or agents working on their behalf set out to kill vulnerable people through stress /shock? which knowingly would expedite their death by causing their health to deteriorate

    Those most at risk would be those with mental condition’s that would have been taking a range of medication like
    Risperidone Olanzapine Quetiapine Ziprasidone Aripiprazole Paliperidone Lurasidone

    also they would not have been sleeping to well and may quite well have been taking medication (such as Zopiclone or Zolpidem) the preferred drugs for insomnia.

    They may have also had other medical condition’s like heart /lung/kidney/liver and the drugs for these condition’s would put them in a very vulnerable condition to any type of added stress

    Any type of added alcohol to this mix would prove fatal i believe as those with mental health long term condition’s also suffer from depression and these types of antidepressants are called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These include: Fluoxetine Citalopram Sertraline Paroxetine Escitalopram

    The correct procedure here is for a autopsy to be carried out so that the relatives would know what led up to the death of their loved one and on how and why they have died and that them being told they were fit for work was a lie as they clearly weren’t hence their death

    Hopefully all sick and disabled people along with their carers reading this will make sure that if their loved one dies through DWP stress that they get an autopsy carried out as that and that alone will be key in any prosecution that they may wish to follow up on

    i have only touched on a very small analyses group of people of which i have a full understanding of that type of person but in going forward Jeremy Corbyn needs to make sure that the government are fully transparent on all DWP related deaths and that the public are fully kept up to date and briefed so that these deaths stop and that they stop now

    1. Tony Dean

      All that needs to be published are the rates for comparison purposes in the format X/1000/annum.
      The in depth analysis of each death is not required for the purposes of determining something is very badly wrong.
      For instance if the death rate for the general working age population is 2.9/1000/annum
      and the death rate for those found fit for work who appeal and die before a tribunal date is 150/1000/annum it is blatantly obvious something is badly wrong.
      That is why Iain Duncan Smith does not want the data published.

  2. NMac

    The wriggling continues. They must be putting a huge amount of effort and time into trying to wriggle out of any acceptance of the consequences of their inhuman treatment of people who are unable to fight back. The similarities with Nazi Germany of the 1930s become ever more noticeable.

  3. thomassutcliffe

    DWP management should certainly be facing corporate manslaughter charges – and IDS whose policies they implement should be getting a single ticket for the Hague to be done for crimes against humanity.

  4. Lynn Dye

    Mike, I salute you for all the sterling work you are doing on behalf of so many victims. I am sure I am just one of many who so greatly value you for pursuing this matter.

  5. Charles Loft

    My own situation is exceptionally similar to Michael’s. I am 64, had been on Incapacity benefit for 10 years and I suffer from Depression, Anxiety and PRSD all diagnosed by NHS Consultants as well as numerous GPs. The Incapacity Benefit to ESA WCA awarded me nil points as being ‘fit for work’. I have since had constant worry 24/7, very sleepless nights and it has left me feeling outright suicidal. They additionally hurried the Mandatory Reconsideration through in 7 days so as not to give me any time to submit further evidence deciding to uphold the original ESA refusal decision. They placed their entire case on the ESA WCA and deliberately totally ignored the 10 years of previous evidence and medical records they hold. They also ignored a recent PIP Tribunal awarded to me. Basically if someone can stand for 1 minute and can breathe, the DWP consider them ‘fit for work’ provided they do not have an actual nervous breakdown during the WCA. So much for the DWP’s response to the instruction from St Pancras Coroner Ms Mary Hassell that the DWP must take action to prevent further deaths.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Yeah, with Mandatory Reconsideration, a friend of mine wrote in to say she was planning to request this but the DWP should not go ahead until she submitted her extra evidence – and they went ahead. In practice, it means you get to proceed straight to an appeal before a tribunal without too much of a delay, so they shoot themselves in the foot, really.

  6. mrmarcpc

    Their squirming continues to get out of their responsibility of their heinous acts, they should be held accountable for their actions, they’ve committed murder so they should be prosecuted!

  7. Steven Burkill

    Would not Involuntry Manslaughter or Manslaughter by gross negligence against the individual reveal more. Without the backing of the DWP, individuals would be more vunerable and if convicted would allow the DWP department to be held responsible for that workforce. Just a question.

Comments are closed.