A groundbreaking study of possible links between benefit sanctions and claimant ill-health – including mental illness and suicide – has ground to a halt because Tory ministers are not co-operating.
After making a big show of supporting the Glasgow University research back in 2019, DWP ministers immediately insisted that new security protocols would be required before they released the necessary data.
It took two years for the new protocols to be completed – and when they reached completion last year, the DWP demanded that researchers should apply for the data all over again.
Prof Nick Bailey, who is heading the Glasgow sanctions project, said that had the data been shared as originally agreed with the DWP in 2018, his research would have been in the public domain by early 2020. It is now five years since the research process for the project was supposed to have started and it has yet to get under way.
“The consequence for both policymakers and benefit claimants is we continue to operate an important policy, sanctions, which has potentially substantial consequences for those affected by it but with very little evidence of the impact of the policy, and almost none on the wider impacts,” said Bailey.
A recent Glasgow University paper analysing international studies of sanctions reported “significant associations with increased material hardship and health problems” as well as evidence sanctions “were associated with increased child maltreatment and poorer child wellbeing”.
The DWP has said it is now “actively considering” the data request that was originally made back in 2018 – nearly four years ago.
But what are we – the public – to make of this?
Does the Department for Work and Pensions have something to hide – such as complicity in the deaths of thousands of benefit claimants?
This Writer – and This Site – forced the government to reveal that thousands of people had died of unexplained causes within two weeks of being denied their benefits, all the way back in 2015.
Nothing was done to research the deaths – or to find out what had happened to people who had been denied benefits after the two-week period the DWP monitored.
And that was nearly seven years ago.
It seems to me that the DWP is deliberately concealing information on behalf of its masters in the Conservative government; the demand for extraordinary security procedures is just an excuse.
And it seems to me that there can be only one reason for hiding the information – that there is a link between benefit sanctions and claimant deaths, and DWP bosses have known about it for many years.
I challenge the DWP – and the Conservative government – to prove me wrong.
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