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I am indebted to campaigner Gail Ward who sent in a Freedom of Information request about the number of deaths on ESA and two other benefits between 2014 and 2017 (I should have done it myself but somebody made a false and vexatious accusation of anti-Semitism against me so I’ve had to spend a lot of time fighting that instead). From it, The Canary‘s Steve Topple deduced that around 100 people a day were dying while on ESA.
That’s just one more than the 99 who I found were dying every day, after the DWP finally honoured my own FoI request about benefit-related deaths in 2015.
Mr Topple wrote that deaths in the Work-Related Activity Group were of serious concern, is this is the part of ESA for people who are expected to be able to return to work in the near future.
He was echoing my own words from 2015.
I wrote: “The work-related activity group is composed entirely of people who are expected to recover from their illnesses and be well enough to return to work within a year. In that group, there should be no deaths at all – barring accidents. Why have nearly 10,000 people lost their lives after being assigned there?”
And why are people assigned to the WRAG still losing their lives, three years after these damning figures were published on This Site?
The answer is obvious: The DWP hasn’t lifted a finger to stop them.
When I published my piece in August 2015, I made a series of points:
“The figures released today demand more considered, in-depth study.
“Age-Standardised Mortality Rates give a false picture of the number of deaths – as predicted.
“Serious questions must now be asked about the way incapacity benefits are being administered by the Department for Work and Pensions.”
It is a scandal that those points are still valid today.
And the excuse provided by the DWP is the same as three years ago, as well: “Any causal effect between benefits and mortality cannot be assumed from these statistics.”
Maybe not – but then that leads to a very obvious follow-up question:
How much research has the DWP carried out into the reasons so many people have died, in a benefit group where they were expected to get better?
The DWP has responded to a Freedom of Information request (FOI) from disability campaigner Gail Ward. She asked how many people on ESA and two other benefits had died between 2014 and 2017.
On average, this means that over 100 people a day died while on ESA for the period in question. Breaking it down, the deaths per day were:
Slightly more than 7 in the “unknown” group.
9.02 during the assessment phase.
10 in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG).
Almost 75 in the Support Group.
Deaths in the Support Group could be expected, as the claimants are often severely ill. But what’s of concern is the number of deaths in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) – the part of ESA where the DWP places people aged 16-64 who it deems can start moving towards work.
It is impossible to know why so many WRAG claimants were dying, as the DWP does not do this analysis. But nor does it calculate the number of claimants who died after being declared fit-for-work. As such, these figures raise serious questions about whether some WRAG claimants should have been in that group to start with. They also raise serious concerns about the treatment of claimants, and why so many people who the DWP deemed well enough to start moving towards work have been dying.
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