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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.”
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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