Tag Archives: Incapacity

Tory austerity may be responsible for one of history’s worst genocides

[Image: @ukdemockery.]


People really do have short memories.

Prominent in some news media at the moment is a report in the British Medical Journal that health and social care spending cuts by the Conservatives in government since 2010 have led to 120,000 excess – read “needless” – deaths.

The BMJ states:

The squeeze on public finances since 2010 is linked to nearly 120,000 excess deaths in England, with the over 60s and care home residents bearing the brunt, reveals the first study of its kind, published in the online journal BMJ Open.

“The critical factor in these figures may be changes in nurse numbers, say the researchers, who warn that there could be an additional toll of up to 100 deaths every day from now on in.

“Between 2010 and 2014, the NHS in England has only had a real term annual increase in government funding of 1.3 per cent, despite rising patient demand and healthcare costs.

“And real term spend on social care has fallen by 1.19 per cent every year during the same period, despite a significant projected increase in the numbers of over 85s–those most likely to need social care–from 1.6 million in 2015 to 1.8 million in 2020, say the researchers.

“The spending restraints were associated with 45,368 excess deaths between 2010 and 2014 compared with equivalent trends before 2010.

“Most of these deaths were among the over 60s and care home residents. And every £10 drop in spend per head on social care was associated with five extra care home deaths per 100,000 of the population, the analysis showed.

“These associations remained after further detailed analysis and taking account of global and national economic factors.

“Changes in the numbers of hospital and community nurses were the most salient factors in the associations found between spend and care home deaths. From 2001 to 2010 nurse numbers rose by an average of 1.61% every year, but from 2010 to 2014 rose by just 0.07%–20 times lower than in the previous decade.

“On the basis of the trends between 2009 and 2014, the researchers estimate that an extra 152,141 people could die between 2015 and 2020, equivalent to nearly 100 extra deaths every day.

“The funds needed to close this ‘mortality gap’ would be £6.3 billion every year, or a total of £25.3 billion, they calculate.”

That’s nearly 200,000 people likely to have died needlessly between 2010 and 2020, due to Tory cuts in social care, and affecting mostly people aged over 60 and care home residents.

Those figures are bad enough – but we seem to have forgotten the deaths caused by the Department for Work and Pensions. Remember them?

Back in 2015, when my Freedom of Information request about the number of sickness benefit claimants who had died was finally honoured, we discovered that 2,400 ESA claimants had died within two weeks of being found fit for work. That was the headline figure, but it didn’t tell the whole story because it referred only to a two-week period when the DWP recorded what happened to these people, and only to those who had been found fit for work.

But we have a plethora of evidence that people have died after that two-week period, when the DWP had ceased monitoring their condition. This site has covered dozens – perhaps hundreds – of stories about such people.

And consider this: The number of claimants of any kind of incapacity benefit who died between January 2011 and the end of February 2014 was 91,740. It’s true that many of these people may have been likely to die in any case, due to the seriousness of their health condition.

But we know that the frequency of these deaths increased from 32 per day between January and November 2011, to 79.5 per day between January 2011 and February 2014. That’s a huge increase, for which no explanation has been put forward.

Evidence that the DWP tried to withhold from its response to my FoI request showed that fewer claimants died after the DWP suspended its intrusive and stressful repeat assessments of claimants’ capability for work.

The Work Capability Assessment itself caused a massive increase in mental health problems among benefit claimants who had to take it, leading to 590 suicides in a period covered by an Oxford University and Liverpool University report.

And claimants of both ESA and PIP, who admit they have mental health problems during the assessment, are routinely asked why they have not committed suicide in a modern-day permutation of the practice known as “chequebook euthanasia”.

Put all that together and the total – from deaths caused by austerity cuts in the Department of Health and just the sickness and disability component of the Department for Work and Pensions’ workload – must be a national scandal.

Several commentators have pointed out that the deaths are concentrated among the old and the sick or disabled, and have questioned whether they are evidence of eugenics-based social engineering by Conservatives including David Cameron, Iain Duncan Smith and Theresa May.

I seem to recall, in previous articles, comparing Tory austerity deaths to the “harrying of the north”, in which William the Conqueror’s forces killed around 100,000 people after he took the English throne in 1066. This now seems a pitifully low estimate.

It’s time to be honest: UK austerity deaths are almost certainly causing one of the worst genocides in history.


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Proven: The Thatcher project aimed to kill industry and create unemployment. It succeeded

zde-industrialisation-destitution

There can be no doubt any more: From Margaret Thatcher onwards, the Conservative Party has deliberately worked to plunge most of the UK into poverty.

The Jobs, Welfare and Austerity report links very well with a paper published a couple of years ago, The Impact of Thatcherism on Health and Well-Being in Britain, published by Durham University, stated that Margaret Thatcher, along with other leading Tory neoliberals of the 1970s like Keith Joseph and Nicholas Ridley, decided that they needed to end full employment.

The paper states: “In the years between 1975 and 1979, those around Thatcher—in particular, Keith Joseph and Nicholas Ridley—developed detailed proposals for government. Their view was that defeat of the movement that had forced Heath’s U-turn [from neoliberalism to Keynesianism – it prompted the famous statement, “The lady’s not for turning”] would require, not simply the disengagement of the state from industry, but the substantial destruction of Britain’s remaining industrial base.

“The full employment that had been sustained across most of the post-war period was seen, together with the broader security offered by the welfare state, to be at the root of an unprecedented self-confidence among working-class communities.

“In particular, large-scale manufacturing and extraction industries, generally strongly unionized and often linked to the large-scale provision of social housing at subsidized rents by local government, were seen to underpin a working-class solidarity that gave this confidence a potent political expression.”

So they killed those industries, ended full employment and parked millions of people on incapacity (now sickness and/or disability benefits). Here’s the proof of that claim:

161107-incapacity-benefit-claimants

You see, when Tories say Labour is responsible for the high number of sickness and/or disability benefit claimants, they are lying.

Marry this information with the new data from Sheffield Hallam University and you can see that the Conservative Party has deliberately de-industrialised the UK – in order to ensure a high rate of unemployment – and is now deliberately cutting off access to benefit payments – in order to render working-class people destitute.

They knew the result would be a high budget deficit; this was to be used as an excuse for the cuts that would plunge working-class people into poverty.

Make no mistake: This was a deliberate, pre-meditated plan, and anybody who voted ‘Conservative’ between 1979 and 2015 has actively supported it, whether they were aware of it or not.

The enduring impact of closing factories and shutting coalmines in the 1980s has been revealed in new research showing that the drain on the exchequer from former industrial areas is responsible for up to half the government’s £55bn budget deficit.

In the first comprehensive analysis of the cost to the state of the de-industrialisation that began three decades ago, Sheffield Hallam University said the annual bill was at least £20bn and was perhaps as high as £30bn.

The report found that the cumulative legacy of the hollowing-out of manufacturing and the year-long miners’ strike of 1984-85 was a far heavier concentration of people claiming incapacity benefits than in the richer parts of Britain and a more widespread use of tax credits to top up the wages of those in low-paid jobs.

The report’s co-author, Prof Steve Fothergill, said: “The long-term effect of job destruction in older industrial Britain has been to park vast numbers out of the labour market on incapacity benefits, these days employment and support allowance (ESA). The cost to the Treasury is immense, especially if all the top-up benefits are included.

“Added to this, low wages in these weaker local economies have jacked up spending on in-work benefits such as tax credits and reduced income tax revenue. None of these impacts have diminished over the years, despite the recent upturn and efforts to cut claimant numbers.

“We estimate that the ongoing cost to the exchequer, in extra benefit spending and lost tax revenue, is at least £20bn a year, and possibly nearer £30bn. To put this another way, approaching half the current budget deficit is the result of job destruction in Britain’s older industrial areas.”

The report – Jobs, Welfare and Austerity – said there was a continuous thread linking what happened to British industry in the 1980s to the welfare cuts being borne by communities in the north, Scotland and Wales today.

Source: Half UK budget deficit ‘is down to job destruction in older industrial areas’ | Business | The Guardian

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Yes, Iain Duncan Smith – Vox Political HAS accused you of ‘outrageous action’. PROVE US WRONG

Iain Duncan Smith can’t prove us wrong. He deliberately refuses to collect the statistics that would confirm his claims – or ours.

Instead, he has claimed that This Blog (and presumably others) has accused him of “outrageous action”, without providing a scrap of evidence against the allegation.

This Writer is delighted that the Gentleman Ranker has tried to defend himself. I am currently working on a book covering this subject and his words may provide an excellent introduction.

The man we like to call RTU (Return To Unit – a Forces description of someone who trained to be an officer but was a washout) was responding to a request for information from Frank Field, chairman of the Commons work and pensions committee.

Mr Field had asked what data the DWP collects on the deaths of benefit claimants, in an attempt to find out whether there is any link between the work capability assessment (WCA) – carried out on claimants of Employment and Support Allowance and the Personal Independent Payment – and suicide, self-harm and mental ill-health.

The issue had been raised in research by Oxford University and Liverpool University entitled First Do No Harm.

This Blog reported on that document’s findings here – and you would be well-advised to refresh your memory of that article before you see the Secretary-in-a-State’s comments.

You should also read Vox Political‘s follow-up article in which a response from the Department for Work and Pensions – attempting to deny the research findings – is comprehensively disproved.

Iain Duncan Smith started writing his letter without a leg to stand on. Here it is – read it for yourself and see if you have any sympathy for his attitude.

Note that he admits the DWP has a “duty of care” to benefit claimants. It has taken years to get him to admit this and it will be very important if – for example – corporate manslaughter charges arise in the future.

Where he says the report’s authors admitted there was no evidence of a “causal link” between the WCA and suicide, he is of course being disingenuous. Iain Duncan Smith would not be satisfied with any evidence other than coroners’ findings that all 590 suicides mentioned by the report were attributed by the perpetrators to the work capability assessment. That was never going to happen.

But the report did examine other causes and eliminated them. While it states there is no direct evidence of a causal link between the WCA and suicide, the deaths certainly aren’t linked to any other cause.

Note also, Duncan Smith’s claim that the lack of a causal link was not reported in the media is not true.

The comment that there is no evidence the people with mental health problems underwent a WCA is covered in This Blog’s follow-up article, but for clarity I’ll repeat it here:

“Jonathan Portes of the National Institute for Economic and Social Research (NIESR) told This Writer that… the DWP’s response ‘reflects a basic misunderstanding of how you do this sort of analysis! Looking at WCA cases would be precisely wrong. You need to be able to control for selection – to do that here, [you] need to look at [the] whole population.

“’Let’s try [an] example. Does Coke make you fat? You can’t just look at people who drink coke & ask if they’re fatter, but if in areas where Coke [is]cheap, [and] people [are] on average fatter, *controlling for everything else*, that does tell you something.’

“So, in order to ensure that the correct cause is ascribed to any particular effect, those who carried out the study had to examine the health of the population as a whole, and eliminate elements that could relate to everybody, rather than just those who took the work capability assessment. They needed to rule out “unobserved confounding” – unseen elements contributing to the results.”

And that is precisely what they did.

Duncan Smith’s assertion that being sent back to work can “promote and protect health, and also reverse the harmful effects of long-term unemployment or prolonged sickness absence” is only accurate if the person doing the work is healthy enough for it – and, by definition, may not be applied to those whose mental ill-health has driven them to suicide.

Inaccurate WCA findings that claimants are “fit for work” or may be “fit for work” within a year of their assessment also mean that many ESA claimants will be sent back into the job market before they are healthy enough. In these cases, there can only be one result: Being sent back to work will make their health worse.

Of course it will; there is a reason they stopped working and claimed ESA in the first place. If that reason still applies, then sending them back to work can only have one result.

Anyone wanting to suggest that a large number of ESA claimants are committing fraud in order to avoid work should remind themselves of the facts: While a TUC survey has shown people think 27 per cent of the ‘welfare’ budget is claimed fraudulently, the government’s own figure is just 0.7 per cent. For ESA claimants it reduces even further, to 0.4 per cent. That’s one person out of 250, rather than roughly one in four – a big difference, especially when one considers the effect on their health of sending an ill person back to work prematurely, as Iain Duncan Smith appears to be advocating.

And then there is this:

160211IDSnote-outrageousaction

The handwriting is appalling so This Writer will try to translate: “NB: There are some out there in the media and social media who have used raw figures to accuse the govt of outrageous [sic] action. I would hope that the committee would not seek to follow suit. I note that having introduced the ESA and the WCA, the Labour Party now seeks to attack it as though they had nothing to do with it. Surely the committee should seek to recognise the good intent of those engaged in this difficult area.”

Those engaged in this area have no good intent whatsoever – let’s get that clear from the start. Their intentions are well-covered in previous articles on This Blog, which I will forward to Frank Field and his committee.

As for “some out there in the media and social media who… accuse the government of outrageous action” – I think he means me.

How nice to have official recognition and how clever of him to describe his own behaviour accurately.

Outrageous action? That’s exactly right.

Iain Duncan Smith’s department practises ‘chequebook euthanasia’ – WCA assessors use psychological ‘nudge’ techniques to push the mentally-ill towards suicide in order to reduce the “burden” on society caused by these “useless eaters”.

Even Frank Field – chairman of the work and pensions committee who contacted Iain Duncan Smith over the Oxford University and Liverpool University allegations – has raised concerns about this behaviour:

zTerminal

It is outrageous.

Even more outrageous is the fact that Iain Duncan Smith is trying to deny it.

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Government knew about rise in mental illness long before this week’s study – but won’t talk about it

[Image: Black Triangle Campaign]

[Image: Black Triangle Campaign]


Yesterday (Wednesday), This Writer learned two new things about the new university study that has found 590 people committed suicide between 2010-13 after taking work capability assessments (actually, one was a reminder of something I’d forgotten):

The study found that, for every 10,000 people undergoing a work capability assessment for sickness or disability benefits in those years, 7,020 were prescribed anti-depressant drugs afterwards, 2,700 reported to their GPs with mental health issues, and six committed suicide.

The reminder came from a Vox Political commenter and was that the DWP already knew there had been a huge increase in the number of benefit claimants with mental health disorders.

According to the Express, of all places: “In 2010 just 221,000 with mental disorders were in receipt of out of work benefits. But official statistics show the figure leapt to 861,000 last year [2013] – a rise of 289 per cent.

“Those with conditions like bipolar disorder, severe depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and schizophrenia now account for 46 per cent of those paid Employment and Support Allowance.”

So the increase of 279,000 people with mental health problems, added to the 221,000 who were on benefit in 2010, gives us half a million people – easily within the 861,000 total for ESA alone.

So figures that were published by the DWP itself totally support the new study.

The second new thing was that the Conservative Government doesn’t seem to want to talk about it.

Debbie Abrahams, shadow minister for the disabled, tried to ask an urgent question about the new study in the House of Commons on Tuesday (November 17) but was refused permission. So she made a point of order, asking the Speaker, John Bercow, how she could get the work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, to make an early statement on the subject.

Again, she was rebuffed – Bercow told her to table a written question and “if she remains unhappy with the answers—or, as she sees it, the lack of answers—she can try again to deploy the mechanism of an urgent question”.

There might be a justification for not answering if the study had only revealed the extent of mental illnesses, which was known.

But there is the matter of the 590 suicides. Is the work capability assessment driving people to their deaths?

People killing themselves as a direct result of the work capability assessment – as the study indicates – is a serious issue, especially for a government that is still – increasingly desperately – clinging to claims that it is not possible to show that the WCA causes people to die, in any way.

And nobody at the DWP wants to talk about it.

Thomas More once stated: “The maxim is ‘Qui tacet consentit’: the maxim of the law is ‘Silence gives consent’. If therefore you wish to construe what my silence betokened, you must construe that I consented.”

Let’s have that question again: Is the work capability assessment driving people to their deaths?

The DWP is silent.

Silence gives consent.

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590 suicides: DWP denial is wrong – or an attempt to hide the facts

[Image: www.disabledgo.com]

[Image: www.disabledgo.com]

Nobody should have been surprised by the Department for Work and Pensions’ response to the revelation that suicide and mental illness soared in roughly equal measure to the amount of work capability assessments taking place, between 2010 and 2013.

As predicted on This Blog yesterday evening, a spokesperson said: “The authors themselves caution that no conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect.”

But this is interesting: “It is concerning that they provide no evidence that the people with mental health problems highlighted in the report even underwent a Work Capability Assessment.”

No, they didn’t – but there were several factors affecting this: Firstly, the availability of accurate information, and secondly, whether this was a study that needed to focus exclusively on benefit claimants.

Professor Louis Appleby, a government adviser on suicide and mental health, thinks it was. He tweeted: “True figure for suicide linked to WCA likely to be less than in today’s study: could work out exact number if DWP gave access to individual cases.”

But we don’t have access to individual cases. The DWP has made it abundantly clear that Conservative Government ministers have deliberately chosen not to record medical information such as the cause of a claimant’s death – and in any case (again by deliberate choice), no effort has been made to keep track of claimants whose benefit claim has been halted.

It would, therefore, be pointless to rely on information from the DWP!

But Jonathan Portes of the National Institute for Economic and Social Research (NIESR) told This Writer that, in any case, the DWP’s response “reflects a basic misunderstanding of how you do this sort of analysis! Looking at WCA cases would be precisely wrong. You need to be able to control for selection – to do that here, [you] need to look at [the] whole population.

“Let’s try [an] example. Does Coke make you fat? You can’t just look at people who drink coke & ask if they’re fatter, but if in areas where Coke [is]cheap, [and] people [are] on average fatter, *controlling for everything else*, that does tell you something.”

So, in order to ensure that the correct cause is ascribed to any particular effect, those who carried out the study had to examine the health of the population as a whole, and eliminate elements that could relate to everybody, rather than just those who took the work capability assessment. They needed to rule out “unobserved confounding” – unseen elements contributing to the results.

Is that what happened?

Here’s what the study’s authors had to say: “We found no significant association between the reassessment rate and trends in self-reported mental health problems and suicides in the over 65-year-old population, (ie, people over retirement age and therefore not subject to the WCA reassessment process).

“We also found no association with trends in heart conditions in the working age population, or trends in prescribing of cardiovascular drugs (ie, health conditions that would not plausibly be affected by the WCA reassessment process, in the short term at least).

“These test results suggest that the observed association between the reassessment process and mental health outcomes in the working-age population is not due to unobserved confounding.”

That comment would not have been possible if the study had focused on benefit claimants exclusively, and not the general population.

The study was subjected to further tests, though: “As our main analysis was based on aggregate data, it is possible that changes in composition of these populations could explain the results. To explore this further we analysed individual level data from the Labour Force Survey in a multilevel model, further controlling for a number of individual characteristics including age and sex, labour market status (employed, unemployed and inactive), number of physical chronic illnesses and level of education. This analysis gave very similar results as that based on aggregate data.

“In additional analysis we also controlled for differential trends by the level of rurality in each area and trends in initial assessments for out-of-work disability benefits and found these did not change our results.”

So – in the words of Mr Portes, “controlling for everything else” – the study produced the same increase in antidepressant prescribing, mental illness and suicide, indicating that the significance of these rises was that they coincided with the imposition of the work capability assessment on benefit claimants.

In This Writer’s opinion, the DWP comment was a rather desperate attempt at ass-covering. Ministers had believed they had eliminated any way of relating their flawed, tick-box assessment – which takes no account of medical conditions in establishing whether a person is fit for work, remember – with the deaths or suicides of claimants. Now they have discovered that they were mistaken.

Again we come back to the issue of freedom of information. All the way down the line, the facts about the effects of these tests have been deliberately hidden from the public by a government that is happy to remove our privacy and tell us, “If you’ve nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.”

What is the Conservative Government afraid we’ll discover?

Perhaps now is the time to demand a full inquiry into the practical results of the work capability assessment regime…

An inquiry to be followed by criminal prosecutions.

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Sickness benefit medical test caused massive increase in mental illness, research shows

sicknote
New research has indicated that the work capability assessment – used by the government to decide whether a claimant should receive incapacity or disability benefits – may be causing mental illness among its patients.

The finding that the process is potentially harming its recipients has raised “major ethical issues” for all those involved, according to the report’s authors.

The research by Oxford University and Liverpool University shows that more than two-thirds of claimants who took the fake ‘medical’ test between 2010 and 2013 – 7,020 out of every 10,000 – received prescriptions for anti-depressant drugs afterwards.

There were 2,700 cases of mental ill-health and – most damning of all, six suicides per 10,000 assessments. If these were all separate cases, that would leave just 274 people who, after the assessment, were only suffering with the illnesses they took into it.

All the results were calculated after taking account of the impact of baseline deprivation, economic trends, and long-term trends in mental health.

More than a million people were reassessed for benefit using the WCA between 2010 and 2013 – in fact, using the figures from the study, around 1,306,670 people faced the assessment.

This means 590 of those people aren’t around anymore – they committed suicide and are dead.

If that doesn’t seem many, it should be remembered that suicide reached a 13-year high in 2013, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Of the others, 279,000 were diagnosed with mental ill-health and 725,000 were prescribed anti-depressants.

This is equivalent to 5 per cent of the total number of suicides, 11 per cent of prevalent cases of self-reported mental health problems and 0.5 per cent of the total number of antidepressant items prescribed in England. And yes, all of these phenomena increased between 2010 and 2013.

The research also found that people who were reassessed were more likely to live in deprived areas – and the areas with the greatest number of people taking the WCA medical test had seen the sharpest rises in suicides, mental health issues and anti-depressant prescribing.

There is so much in the report that raises serious concern about the entire work capability assessment process. For example, it states: “Health professionals are involved in carrying out a large number of these assessments every year with a further one million assessments planned for 2015. Given that doctors and other health professional have professional and statutory duties to protect and promote the health of patients and the public, our evidence that this process is potentially harming the recipients of these assessments raises major ethical issues for those involved.

“Regulators and other bodies representing health professionals should advocate for the benefits and harms of alternative disability assessment policies to be established though a well-designed trial.”

The report states: “These test results suggest that the observed association between the reassessment process and mental health outcomes in the working-age population is not due to unobserved confounding” – in other words, the researchers believed they had ruled out the possibility of other, unseen, elements contributing to the results.

It adds: “We found that the level of reassessment in the previous time period predicted future increases in suicides, self-reported mental health problems and antidepressant prescribing.”

The experts concluded: “The programme of reassessing people on disability benefits using the Work Capability Assessment … may have had serious adverse consequences for mental health in England, which could outweigh any benefits that arise from moving people off disability benefits.”

They wrote: “We found that those local areas where a greater proportion of the population were exposed to the reassessment process experienced a greater increase in three adverse mental health outcomes—suicides, self-reported mental health problems and antidepressant prescribing.

“These associations were independent of baseline conditions in these areas, including baseline prevalence of benefit receipt, long-term time trends in these outcomes, economic trends and other characteristics associated with risk of mental ill-health.”

This is particularly damning: “These increases followed—rather than preceded—the reassessment process.”

You can imagine the DWP spokesperson’s response already, no doubt.

It will say that suicide and mental ill-health are due to multiple causes and should not be associated with a single element of a person’s life. It will also say that this evidence shows correlation, not causation – that is to say that there is no direct causal evidence linking the Conservative Government’s benefit policy with mental illness and suicide.

I say that is not true.

It is only a few days since This Blog revealed that the number of incapacity benefits claimants dying in mid-claim started to fall after the DWP suspended repeat work capability assessments for them in January 2014.

That data was released – reluctantly – in response to a freedom of information request I made almost a year and a half ago, under a threat that the DWP would be prosecuted for contempt of court if it did not comply. To use the government’s own rhetoric: If ministers had nothing to hide, why was this information not provided as soon as it became available?

And we have evidence from coroners, directly linking an increasing number of suicides with the work capability assessment and the DWP’s treatment of benefit claimants afterwards.

Circumstantial evidence, the DWP will say.

And that’s true.

But there are plenty of criminals serving long sentences behind bars because of circumstantial evidence like this.

I expect questions in Parliament. I would like to see a major police investigation into this entire policy area, looking at the cases of everybody who has died after being subjected to a WCA, the way they were treated by DWP representatives (including employees of the private companies that were hired to carry out the tests – Atos, between the dates used by the researchers), the politicians who put in place the policies that have been running between 2010 and the present and their reasons for ignoring the mountain of evidence against those policies, and the people who advocated the current regime in the first place, together with the evidence they used to support their case. Did they have any idea of the consequences?

But my inner pessimist believes all I’ll get are questions in Parliament.

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Council finance chief to investigate ‘workhouse’ scheme

Workhouse: A former bus depot in Blackburn which is set to become a workhouse for up to 10 inmates.

Workhouse: A former bus depot in Blackburn which is set to become a workhouse for up to 10 inmates.

The finance chief at Blackburn with Darwen Council is to consider more deeply the plan to turn a former bus depot into what could be a 21st-century workhouse, it seems, after a Vox Political commenter raised concerns.

Andy Kay said he did not disagree that, although a few people could be taken off the street by the scheme, it could be setting a precedent for the government to say anyone who claims housing, unemployment or sickness benefit must work in a workhouse or be homeless, in conversation with commenter Helen Pay.

“With what the government is doing already, this idea isn’t far-fetched,” she told This Blog.

“Andy didn’t know if the homeless people were going to be paid wages – but the minimum wage for a young person he looked up and is something crazy like £4. Would many people choose to sort recycling for £4 an hour?

“He also said about accomodation being paid for at housing benefit rates. So when I asked if these homeless people could then be paid the minimum wage and be topped up by the council paying housing benefit – which would be paid to the charity – to live on a recycling site, his attitude completely changed. He hadn’t considered this.”

She told us she had also found it useful, when Mr Kay said the bottom line was to help homeless people, to quote an idea she had submitted to the Royal British Legion: “To supply accommodation to homeless people that involved zero profit being made and was purely about helping people.”

She pointed out: “The ‘charity’ website of Recycling Lives even talks about these homeless people being farmed out to other companies and those companies paying the wages they would have paid – to Recycling Lives.”

Ms Pay added: “I also mentioned personal responsibility for future events – which he seemed to take on board.

“I said I hoped that if he investigated and found Recycling Lives was taking advantage of people that I would read in a newspaper article that Andy Kay had been a whistle blower and put a halt to this scheme.”

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DWP confusion: Saying claimants can die twice – and denying it – at the same time

[Image: Before It's News.]

[Image: Before It’s News.]

The Department for Work and Pensions has tried to provide reassurance over the accuracy of its claimant death statistics – but has succeeded only in confirming that it has muddled the figures.

Responding to the Department’s statistical releases of August 27, I told the Information Commissioner’s lawyers: “Reference to the DWP’s other statistical release of August 27 casts doubt on the veracity of the information in table 2.1 [of the response to my own Freedom of Information request], which claims to provide the total number of individuals who died while claiming IB/SDA and ESA.

“However, the figures in the statistical release entitled “Mortality statistics: Out-of-Work Working Age benefit claimants” do not make sense.

“Death figures per year for 2009-2013 are provided for the total incapacity benefits population (IB/SDA and ESA) and also separately but if the separate totals are added together, the sum is greater – every year – than the number claimed for the incapacity benefits population as a whole – by 80 in 2009, 50 in 2010, 640 in 2011, 1,880 in 2012 and 1,330 in 2013.

“Whilst I accept that combining the separate benefit populations will produce a number greater than that of the total incapacity benefit population, because claimants were being migrated across from IB/SDA to ESA, almost as soon as ESA was set up, I do not accept that any benefit claimant can die twice. They can only die once, and they would have been claiming only one benefit when they did so.

“Therefore the total number of deaths claimed in ‘Mortality Statistics: ESA, IB, and SDA’ is questionable.”

See if you can make sense of the reply:

“We can confirm that the combined figure for incapacity benefits is lower than the separate ESA and IB/SDA figures added together. This is because duplicates are removed when the figures are combined. We refer you to the footnotes to Data Table 3 in the “Mortality Statistics: Out-of-Work Working Age benefit claimants” publication, where we explained: “In the incapacity benefits group, each person is only counted once even if they claimed both IB/SDA and ESA in the same year.”

That’s right, Data Table 3 – which refers to the DWP’s claimed total for all incapacity benefits claimants. But if you add the figures in the tables that relate to ESA and IB/SDA individually, you get the discrepancies I have mentioned.

“Therefore, for the purposes of the “Mortality Statistics: Out-of-Work Working Age benefit claimants” publication, if an individual moved from IB/SDA to ESA and then died in the same year, they would be included in both the IB/SDA figures (table 4) and the ESA figures (table 5), but would only be counted once in the Incapacity Benefits table (table 3).”

That is precisely what I said – and it’s ridiculous. They could only have been on one benefit when they died. The DWP is admitting its tables are inaccurate. But wait – it gets worse:

“We can confirm that deaths are only counted once in the “Mortality Statistics: ESA, IB and SDA” publication [the response to my FoI request]. Anyone who moved from IB/SDA to ESA and then died is only included in the ESA figures, as they would have been an ESA claimant at the time of death.”

How do we know that? The statistical release does not show anything of the sort and the fact that the DWP can’t even get its facts right in a “clarification” offers no reassurance at all.

“We trust that this has clarified the matter and answered your queries.”

That has to be a sick joke.

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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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Has the DWP made a fatal error over the claimant deaths FoI request?

[Image: www.disabledgo.com]

[Image: www.disabledgo.com]

To cut a long story short: It looks as though the DWP has blown it, big-time.

Dedicated VP readers who read the article earlier this week will know that the Department for Work and Pensions had until yesterday (October 16) to provide a full response to my Freedom of Information request on the deaths of incapacity benefits claimants.

I received a response by email at around 7.15pm on Thursday – and it’s another attempt at evasion…

… a very poor attempt.

Let’s remind ourselves of the request. On May 28, 2014, I asked:

“Please provide the number of Incapacity Benefit and Employment and Support Allowance claimants who have died since November 2011. Please break that figure down into the following categories:

  • Those who are in the assessment phase
  • Those who were found fit for work
  • Those who were placed in the work-related activity group
  • Those who were placed in the support group
  • Those who have had an appeal completed against a Fit for Work (FFW) decision.”

On April 30 this year (2015), after I appealed against the DWP’s refusal, the Information Commissioner ordered the department to disclose all the information I had requested.

Here’s the start of the DWP’s response of October 15:

“In its Grounds of Appeal, the Department noted that it did not in fact hold information to the 28 May 2014 at the time of the request… Accordingly, the Department did not hold all the necessary data to respond to your request in full as at 28 May 2014.

“At the time of your request, the Department only held processed data, which could be analysed within the FOI cost limit, in relation to all five parts of your (amended) request up to 31 December 2013… Accordingly, the Department maintains that it has provided all the information which could have been provided to you, within the FOI cost limit, at the time of your request had it not intended to publish the information in the future.

“We can confirm, however, that the Department would now be able to provide the information you requested for the period 1 March 2014 to 28 May 2014 within the FOI cost limit on receipt of a new request under the Freedom of Information Act.”

Oh, really?

What a shame, then that this excuse doesn’t carry any weight at all or make the slightest bit of difference to the DWP’s obligations. In fact, this seems to be an admission of even worse skulduggery than we had discovered previously.

Firstly, the Freedom of Information Act 2000 states that, when a request has been made in accordance with the Act, the requester is entitled to be informed in writing by the public authority whether it holds the information, and to have that information communicated to him or her. Paragraph 4 states that the information “is the information in question held at the time when the request is received, except that account may be taken of any amendment or deletion made between that time and the time when the information is to be communicated … being an amendment or deletion that would have been made regardless of the receipt of the request.”

In the letter, the DWP states it now has the information, so it is data that the DWP would have collected regardless of my request, so it is data that the DWP must communicate to me immediately, in accordance with the law, as it has not yet communicated the information I requested back in May 2014. Publishing part of the information does not mean the request has been honoured.

But wait – there’s more.

In the original refusal notice of August 12, 2014, the DWP stated: “We can confirm that we do intend to publish further statistics on this topic and these will answer a majority of your questions. As the statistics are intended for future publication this information is exempt from disclosure under the terms of Section 22 (Information intended for future publication) of the FOIA.”

The only part of my request that the DWP specifically stated would not be answered was the line that originally referred to “those who have an appeal pending”; the Department claimed compliance would cost more than the £600 cost limit. But the letter admitted that, under section 16 of the Act, the Department had a duty “to provide advice and assistance, so far as it would be reasonable to expect the authority to do so, to persons who propose to make, or have made, requests for information to it”. Therefore the letter suggested I change that part of my request to one referring to “those who had an appeal completed” under a ‘fit for work’ decision. Ever willing to be reasonable, I agreed to the change.

The letter does not state that any of the information was not held by the DWP. If it had, then the Department would have been duty-bound to provide advice to me – at the time – to help me get the facts I wanted. So, not only was I misinformed about the availability of the information, but I was also deprived of the opportunity to revise my request – perhaps to have the missing information when it became available.

Either this was negligence on the part of the DWP, or it was a conscious and malicious decision to hide that important information from me. Either way, it seems the DWP is guilty of maladministration because its action was incorrect and has led to an injustice.

It is also a form of false argument known as ‘moving the goal posts’. Failing to address the points I make in my demand for the information, the DWP has instead raised a further point which had not been an issue previously. I call “foul”.

Considered in this way, the assertion that I should submit a new FoI request is risible. It is not up to me to submit a new request; it is the DWP’s responsibility to correct the omissions it made in its handling of the original – and to explain why my request was handled so poorly.

I shall be consulting with the Information Commissioner’s lawyers regarding the implication of maladministration.

And that’s not all!

It seems whoever wrote Thursday’s letter failed to realise that the DWP is not responding to my original FoI request any more. It is responding to the Information Commissioners decision of April 30, ordering the Department to release all the information relevant to my request. The Department was allowed to delay the release while it had an appeal pending – but it dropped the appeal after releasing the limited and unhelpful figures that were published on August 27. The Information Commissioner’s legal team had contacted the DWP after I pointed out that my request, and the Commissioner’s decision notice, had still not been honoured in full.

So it doesn’t matter what information the DWP had on May 28, 2015. Taken from any angle you like, the DWP has a duty to provide all the information it currently holds, relating to my request. That’s the law.

Those of you who read the previous articles on this subject will know that the Information Commissioner’s lawyers were seeking further information from the DWP, to aid an investigation into whether the Department had contumeliously (I now love that word; it means scornfully and insultingly; insolently) disregarded the Commissioner’s decision.

Considering the content of the DWP’s letter, it seems very clear the answer to that question is: Yes.

This lays the DWP, its officers and ministers, open to legal action for contempt of court. Oh, and I still want my information.

Watch this space.

Afterword: This article takes us only partway down page three of a six-page DWP letter. Expect further points to be addressed in future articles.

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