DWP repeatedly ignored warnings over deaths of benefit claimants, peer reviews show

160514 Atos_parliament_protest

That’s right – This Blog said what the mainstream media have been shying away from, because it’s clear: Conservative ministers including Iain Duncan Smith and Chris Grayling refused to change the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), despite evidence that it was causing the deaths of vulnerable people.

A Freedom of Information request by John Pring at Disability News Service has revealed details of ‘peer reviews’ into 49 deaths that were linked to the WCA, in a period covering the years 2012-14. The fact that civil service reviewers were making the same recommendations for around two years is clear evidence that the Conservative ministers did nothing to protect vulnerable people for whom Duncan Smith eventually did admit they had a duty of care.

The DWP is sticking to its story. A Guardian report on the release of the ‘peer review’ information tells us: “A DWP spokesman said it would be wrong to link benefit claims with deaths. ‘Any suicide is a tragedy and the reasons for them are complex, however it would be inaccurate and misleading to link it solely to a person’s benefit claim.'”

We’ll gloss over the fact that not all of these deaths were said to be suicides – in fact, only 40 were.

But there’s no need to gloss over the fact that a joint report by Oxford and Liverpool Universities found that suicide and mental illness has soared among people subjected to the WCA. The DWP tried to deny any causality but this claim was comprehensively trashed by the experts.

The academic researchers admitted their findings do not show that the WCA directly caused the deaths of claimants. But a correlation between the WCA and those deaths is clear, and this often implies causation as well. Having established a correlation, it should have fallen to the Conservative Government to determine whether there was an actual cause-and-effect relationship, by further investigation.

The Conservatives have refused to do this, but have provided no reasons at all for their decision.

And let us not forget This Writer’s own contribution. A Freedom of Information request that I submitted, which the DWP also wasted two years trying to refuse, eventually showed that thousands of people had died within just two weeks of a “fit for work” verdict that ended their claim, that the mortality rate in the ESA work-related activity group (in which people are supposed to be recovering from their illness) was three times the normal rate, and – after a wait of several months while the DWP struggled to withhold more information – that fewer benefit claimants died after the DWP suspended repeat WCAs for people on sickness and disability benefits.

All of this was happening while various Conservative DWP ministers were repeatedly telling MPs in the House of Commons that they had taken every step possible to improve the assessment system and make it as friendly as possible for vulnerable people. I think they were lying.

The evidence is stacking up against the Conservative Government, the DWP and its ministers, including Iain Duncan Smith and now Stephen Crabb. Let us hope it will be aired soon – in court.

It is clear that ministers were repeatedly warned by their own civil servants that their policies to assess people for out-of-work disability benefits were putting the lives of “vulnerable” claimants at risk.

This is because many of the peer reviews – in fact, nearly all of those where it is possible to tell which benefits were involved – were commissioned following deaths linked to the work capability assessment (WCA), which tests eligibility for employment and support allowance (ESA).

And many of those related to the WCA process were also linked to the huge reassessment programme of hundreds of thousands of long-term claimants of incapacity benefit (IB).

This, remember, was a reassessment programme launched ahead of schedule by work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith and employment minister Chris Grayling in 2011, even though they had been warned by their own independent advisor the previous year that it was too soon to roll it out because of flaws within the WCA system.

In all, I counted at least 13 peer reviews in which the author explicitly raises concerns in her recommendations about the way that vulnerable claimants – this is likely to be mostly people with mental health conditions or learning difficulties – are treated.

Ministers, through their senior civil servants, were warned repeatedly that these processes were risking the lives of benefit claimants, and that action needed to be taken. That review after review makes similar recommendations suggests one thing: that ministers failed to act because it would cost too much money to make the system safe.

Source: COMMENT: Long-awaited peer reviews suggest ministers failed to act after deaths of ‘vulnerable’ claimants


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15 thoughts on “DWP repeatedly ignored warnings over deaths of benefit claimants, peer reviews show

  1. Methusalada

    Yes Mike , Now I believe your intellectual arrows are aimed into thecommon foe which John Pring has some masterful experience. I agree with you on your this your current article both as a member of DPAC as a disabled person myself. But you must realise that DPAC is a new blossom of creation & needs it’s supporters but not it’s controllers. Blairites have attempted to our voice masters via their creation of Disability Labour. Hopefully Disability Labour has now matured beyond it’s yoke & harness of it’s apolitic controllers these Blairites . They are able to decide for themselves who are their targets of inhumanity. I trust that you are not offended by my candour as I would like you believe that I have some understanding as to where you heart & brain may be best guided & useful . You are quite unique & succinct in your opinions of a cruel & inhuman Government.For the 11 million disabled people in England & Wales their task is in ensuring that the next Government cannot be allowed to make the same mistakes & errors of judgement.

    1. Dawn Porter

      it was about the numbers and targets in how many they had to get off the sick , but people who where to sick to not almost walk and could be proved where thrown off

  2. Brian

    The government may play with words and attempt to deflect focus, but ultimately the truth will out. It is becoming increasingly clear that an audit trail of ministerial instruction needs a court order of preservation before, and to trace any individuals order of data deletion. I have no doubt this will or has been a tactic used, as seen in the Hillsborough files cover up.

    This should now be a police matter.

    There is, ‘at least’, sufficient evidence for suspicion of dereliction of duty putting lives at risk. Politics must not be allowed to stand in the way of justice.

    1. casalealex

      This figure is from an official review for a period of two years. However, over the last few years, there have been media reports of many more!

  3. Phil Lee

    So they deliberately mislead parliament as well as supervising the worst set of systematic human rights abuses within the UK since the English Civil War.
    Still, as they were clearly “only following orders” I hope that the financial backers and string pullers of the Conservative party should bear the greatest guilt, and that the party will be banned as the terrorist organisation it undoubtedly is.
    Meanwhile, they continue to radicalise the British public to incite hate crimes against those less fortunate than themselves – isn’t that now an offence in itself?

  4. Gerry Siviter

    Thank you for your superbly accurate, if desperately sad article Mike. I have just purchased and downloaded your ‘e-book’; “Health Warning: Government!”. I have maintained my own personal struggle against the DWP and government policy whilst at the same time trying to work with my disability as a freelance Composer of Music. I too, was unlawfully removed from work-related benefits in 2013 in the transition from ‘Incapacity Benefit’ to ‘ESA’. I am in no doubt at all that the pressures placed upon me now are contributing to an increased deterioration in my health, although I can, at least be thankful for the fact that I am still alive! Currently, I am locked into yet another battle with the DWP’s ‘Jobcentre Plus’ concerning their theft (yes, theft) from my National Insurance Contributions! This arbitrary removal of funds from my N.I.C.’s has caused a negative impact upon my entitlements for everything connected to national Insurance Contributions. However, can I get them to admit any form of liability?

    If you are interested in my story for your excellent ‘Vox Political’ Blog I would be happy to expand on these events as I am sure I am not alone in suffering this absurd treatment. It is, in my view, yet another sad indictment of a corrupt government that has infiltrated corruption into the very heart of the Civil Service!

    Yours sincerely,

    Gerry Siviter.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Okay. Write it up and send it in as a ‘comment’, but mark it as an article for publication and I’ll see about putting it up.

  5. Wayne Leon

    Misleading Parliament, human rights abuses, misleading and lying to the electorate. Methinks that the police should now be brought in and charges of wilful corporate murder made.

  6. mrmarcpc

    Both the DWP and the tories should be held accountable for their actions, IDS, Crabb, Patel, Camoron, all of them, they should should be hung!

  7. Brian

    Iain Duncan Smith, our old chum, acts resplendent in his Brexit role, clinging onto the hope we leave the EU so he and Boris can hijack the government and change a few (Ministerial Criminal Exemption) laws. The last refuge of a scoundrel, as Boris’s b**ch. Trouble is, I seem to remember a certain Iraqi hiding down a hole, and that didn’t work either.

Comments are closed.