The Disability News Service has reported Vox Political‘s victory over the DWP, whose officers have less than a month to report the total number of deaths involving people claiming Employment and Support Allowance between November 2011 and May 2014.
The article quotes John McArdle, co-founder of campaigning organisation Black Triangle, who said the updated statistics would be vital: “When the truth comes out about the devastation that this has caused, the whole of society will be absolutely appalled.”
Rick Burgess, co-founder of New Approach, which campaigns to scrap the fitness for work test, said: “People should know the cost of policies they are voting upon, especially when they are causing mass deaths.”
There is much more, and you are encouraged to visit the Disability News Service‘s website to read the full article.
If the Conservative Party forms the next government, the deaths will undoubtedly continue – no matter what the figures prove to be, or the public response to them.
Denied benefit: This is the late Karen Sherlock. Her illnesses included chronic kidney disease, a heart condition, vitamin B12 deficiency, anaemia, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, underactive thyroid, asthma, diabetic autonomic neuropathy, gastropaeresis, and diabetic retinopathy. She died on June 8, 2012, of a suspected heart attack, after the Department for Work and Pensions stopped her Employment and Support Allowance.
The Department for Work and Pensions has commented on this blog’s success in forcing it to reveal the number of Employment and Support Allowance claimants who have died between November 2011 and May 2014.
Readers of this blog will recall that the DWP had refused a Freedom of Information request, made in May last year, but the Information Commissioner’s Office upheld an appeal that used its own rules to demonstrate that the Department had been wrong in law.
The comment appeared in an excellent article by Ros Wynne-Jones of the Daily Mirror. She had contacted the DWP after receiving a press release on the subject from Vox Political – and we should be grateful to her for doing so. Comments to the mainstream media are invariably delivered much more quickly than responses to members of the public.
It is more interesting in what it does not say than it what it does. There is no reference to the fact that the DWP had been found to be wrongly applying the law; no suggestion that it will abide by the Information Commissioner’s ruling; in fact no reference to the Vox Political appeal at all.
Instead, we are told: “It is irresponsible to suggest a causal link between the death of an individual and their benefit claim. Mortality rates among people with serious health conditions are likely to be higher than those among the general population.
“We’ll respond to the Information Commissioner in due course.”
Irresponsible, is it?
There are several ways to disprove this.
Firstly, let us consider the different elements of the Vox Political request. By definition, anybody in the work-related activity group of ESA is believed to be capable of recovering from their illness sufficiently to take a job within 12 months of making their claim. Between January and November 2011, the number of people in this group who died was 1,300; it should have been zero. It is therefore possible to claim that they were put in the wrong group (by a system that may have had targets to meet – but that is a different matter) and that their deaths may have been caused by the stress they faced in having to meet the conditions required by the DWP – or lose their benefit.
We can only say these deaths may have taken place for this reason, because the DWP has not carried out any research on the subject. This displays what many may conclude is a shocking carelessness on the part of the government department. Just one death, in this group, was one too many – but DWP officers, and Coalition Government ministers, allowed more than 1,000 to take place and have done nothing to research the cause and prevent more from happening.
For these reasons, it is simple to conclude that anyone who died while appealing against a DWP decision and those who died after being found fit for work should also be included in the statistics, although it seems likely the DWP will claim it has not researched the number of deaths taking place among those found fit for work. We have news stories covering some of these deaths, so the Department cannot claim ignorance that any deaths were taking place; therefore its omission of any investigation may be considered dereliction of duty on the DWP’s party.
It is possible for the DWP to claim that its comment is accurate regarding people in the support group of ESA – but only to a certain extent. This is why Vox Political initially left support group deaths off the original calculation of the average number of deaths taking place among claimants of ESA; this blog made it out to be around 60 people per week. But a commenter pointed out that being placed in the support group does not mean that a person with a long-term illness will be left alone, and that it is entirely possible that harassment by the DWP could have led to premature deaths in this group; people in the support group are subjected to periodical reassessments that not only cause extreme stress but may be called at random intervals, rather than at regular times. It is entirely possible for a person in the support group to be found fit for work, and have to appeal against the decision – causing more stress. And anyone winning an appeal is entirely likely to find a notice of reassessment in their letterbox the very next day – signalling a return to the beginning of that cycle of stress.
Under these circumstances, This Writer had no choice but to include people in the support group among the death toll – pushing the average during the period covered in 2011 up to more than 220 per week. Although the DWP’s claim that “mortality rates among people with serious health conditions are likely to be higher” is more likely to be correct when applied to people in this group, the Department simply has not done any research on the causes of death. Instead, we have news stories which make it very clear where responsibility lies.
That leaves people who are in the assessment phase of the process. Readers will be aware that the DWP has lengthened this part of the claim procedure hugely by adding a new “mandatory reconsideration” procedure – if a claim is refused, the claimant may not appeal against it until after “mandatory reconsideration” has taken place. There is no time limit in which it must take place and no benefit is paid during the “mandatory reconsideration” period. It is hard to believe this is not intended to place the lives of vulnerable people at risk. How are they supposed to pay the bills, with no money coming in? If they have a mental health condition, won’t this be worsened by the incessant money worries being forced on them by this DWP-enforced process? Of course it will.
Examples of ESA-related deaths (and suicides) are a running theme in Vox Political; this blog has recounted the stories of dozens of people who either died after their benefit was withdrawn or committed suicide because they could not see a way out. We have seen stories of people with terminal cancer being ordered to go to work; of people on their deathbeds being told to attend an interview for work-related activity or lose benefits; of one person with severe mental health problems who had been thrown off sickness benefit and sanctioned off of JSA, who froze to death in the street because he had nowhere else to go.
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith lied on television yesterday (May 5), during a debate on the benefit system, when he said no such review had taken place. The Green Party subsequently demanded a formal apology from the minister, for misleading the public.
One final point: Duncan Smith’s, and the DWP’s, arguments would never stand up in a court of law. There is a wealth of evidence to show the connections between people losing benefit and their subsequent deaths. The DWP has supplied none to disprove those connections. Therefore, if this matter were being tried under jury conditions (as it may be, if allegations of corporate manslaughter are made after the information becomes available) then a jury would have no choice but to convict the representatives of the public organisation.
Duncan Smith labelled the allegations against him and his department “cheap”.
We’ll see how cheap they prove, when all the information is available to the public.
In the meantime, Vox Political‘s advice to readers is unchanged: The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have withheld the facts from you.
Almost a week after being ordered to reveal the number of sickness benefit claimants who have died between November 2011 (the last statistics published) and May 2014 (when This Writer submitted a Freedom of Information request for the facts) the Department for Work and Pensions has yet to furnish us with the figures.
Thanks to a delay of more than seven weeks before the Information Commissioner’s Office published its decision to uphold my appeal against the DWP and order officials to hand over the facts, the department does not – legally – have to deliver them until June 4, meaning people will have to vote in the general election without knowing how many of their fellow citizens have died while in the care of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition.
Some of us don’t think that is acceptable. Here’s why:
Feel free to copy the image and share it everywhere – or even print it off as a poster if you like.
Vox Political will keep you updated as further developments take place.
It grieves This Writer to report that today, Vox Political Towers has received no envelope from the Department for Work and Pensions containing details of sickness benefit-related deaths between November 2011 and May 2014 – nor has there been any email contact.
It seems the DWP intends to keep us waiting the full 35 days legally afforded to it before providing an answer to that question – meaning we may be waiting up to four weeks after the general election.
There is good news, though – certain members of the mainstream media have been in touch and we may see news stories on the subject later today – depending on the decisions of editors.
In the main, though, it’s still down to those of us in the social media to raise awareness of this.
So here’s the latest infographic. Please feel free to copy and share, everywhere:
Hopefully there will be another infographic tomorrow – along with more positive news of the campaign to get this information out.
Believe it or not, there may still be some people in the UK who don’t know the Department for Work and Pensions has been ordered to release details of the number of sickness benefit claimants who have died since November 2011.
People of good conscience across the country – including several celebrities – have been publicising Vox Political‘s article on the subject, on Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets – but the mainstream media of TV, radio and the national newspapers have been quiet so far, despite having been alerted to the issue by This Writer.
Quelle surprise, as the French might say.
It was never really likely that the right-wing press was going to publish material that is as critical of the last government as this undoubtedly is. It seems, if the message is to get out to the wider electorate, then we must get it there ourselves.
Here’s a handy infographic, for that very purpose:
Feel free to copy it and paste it onto your own Facebook page, Twitter messages, and emails to friends/family/local newspapers and anyone else you believe would benefit from the information.
This is a major issue. The mainstream media want to sideline it because it isn’t convenient for them. They find matters involving the sick and disabled very awkward as it might cast their moral stance in a bad light when they support right-wing political parties.
Don’t let it be sidelined.
Many Vox Political readers are doing their bit to inform the public. We all need to keep up the pressure, right up to polling day (Thursday).
Do it for the sick and disabled. Do it for the sake of your conscience. Do it for the UK.
He’s absolutely correct, of course. To hammer the point home, the Angry Yorkshireman has provided us with the following – visual – indication of just what a small drop in an extremely deep ocean this money would be:
The real answer wouldn’t be clear to a privateer like Osborne, which is why he should go back to folding towels.
Eurostar must remain a public asset!
When the UK government has a massive debt to pay off, the idea of selling a profit-making enterprise indicates stupidity of earth-shaking proportions!
You keep Eurostar and use its profits to pay off your debts!
While you’re at it, there are a few other profitable concerns you should be nationalising, too.
Osborne is a child, trying to do a grown-up’s job.
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