Tag Archives: Mary Hassall

DWP blamed by second coroner for incapacity benefit claimant suicide

The late Julia Kelly

The late Julia Kelly

So you thought Mary Hassall was the only British coroner to have blamed a benefit claimant’s death on the DWP? Think again.

To This Writer’s shame, the case of Julia Kelly was reported in This Blog, earlier this year – but I did not recall that Northamptonshire County Coroner Anne Pember’s report had conferred responsibility for her death on the Department for Work and Pensions after the case of Michael O’Sullivan was reported last month.

Mr O’Sullivan committed suicide in late 2013. North London coroner Mary Hassall, at his inquest early the following year, recorded that his death occurred as a direct result of being declared “fit for work” in a DWP work capability assessment, made in response to his claim for Employment and Support Allowance.

Julia Kelly took her life in November 2014. At her inquest in March this year, according to the Northampton Chronicle, “Coroner Anne Pember, recording her verdict of suicide, said she also believed that the ‘upset caused by the potential withdrawal of her benefits had been the trigger for her to end her life’.”

Ms Kelly had been forced to give up work in 2010 due to pain caused by a car crash (which was not her fault) five years previously. In 2013, she was involved in a second crash and had to undergo a six-hour operation on her spine as a result.

Together with her father, David Kelly, she formed a charity – Away With Pain – to help fellow sufferers of chronic back pain.

But then the Department for Work and Pensions told her she had to repay £4,000 in Employment and Support Allowance payments, saying she had failed to declare capital funds.

It seems the government department was referring to money held by the charity, rather than funds owned by Ms Kelly herself.

Ms Kelly, who had fought for every penny of her benefit at three tribunal hearings, was bombarded with a series of repayment demands. According to her father, it was this relentless stream of brown-envelope letters that pushed her to suicide.

He told Channel 4 News about it. Take a look at the report:

A few months later, the DWP started stridently claiming that no causal link had been shown between claims for incapacity benefits and the suicide of claimants, in response to demands from almost 250,000 petitioners – and more than 90 MPs including the new leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn – to publish the number of claimants who have died on benefits.

We all know the DWP was lying, thanks to Ms Hassall’s report on Michael O’Sullivan.

The facts about Julia Kelly mean we must now question the magnitude of the lie.

We know the DWP examined the cases of around 60 people who committed suicide after their benefits were withdrawn or reduced – that fact was most recently mentioned in Prime Minister’s Questions, in the House of Commons on Wednesday (October 21) – but the Department has refused to publish its findings.

All Cameron would offer was that he would “look … at” the question asked about publication. He can look at it all day without doing anything about it, of course.

Meanwhile, serious questions are arising as we learn more about these deaths and the extent of the DWP cover-up.

How many people have died due to the reduction or withdrawal of incapacity benefits?

How many of these deaths happened long enough after their benefits were withdrawn that the DWP never bother to record them – on the grounds that it was none of the Department’s business (this is what happened with Mr O’Sullivan)?

How many more coroners’ verdicts have implicated the DWP in the deaths, but have been quietly swept under the carpet?

And – as the United Nations investigates possible grave and systematic violations of incapacity benefit claimants’ human rights – what can be done to secure the release of the facts?

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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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DWP has delayed long enough. WHERE IS MY INFORMATION?

[Image: www.eastgippsland.net.au]

[Image: www.eastgippsland.net.au]

When the government wants information from a citizen, you have to provide it within a certain time limit under threat of sanction. Why is it, then, that the government is allowed all the time in the world when the roles are reversed?

The story so far: A long time ago (May 28, 2014, in fact), This Writer submitted a Freedom of Information request, asking for the the number of incapacity benefits claimants who had died between the end of November 2011 and May 28, 2014.

The DWP claimed to have answered with a ‘statistical release’ on August 27 this year, but I proved that this answered only those parts of the request that suited the DWP’s own purposes and called on the Information Commissioner to demand that the DWP provide the information in a timely manner – or be convicted of Contempt of Court.

On September 25 I had an email from the Information Commissioner’s Office, saying the DWP had pleaded for more time to make a “substantive” response, but may be able to answer the ICO’s queries about the matter – let alone my FoI request! – by October 2.

Having heard nothing by the end of last week – seven days after the deadline – I got back in touch with the ICO. Today I had a reply, to the effect that the DWP “has not been able to provide a final and substantive response at the time of writing.  It has therefore asked for a further short extension in which to reply”.

The solicitor handling the case believes the Commissioner’s position on any future action needs to be more fully informed by way of further explanation from the DWP, and has therefore granted the extension – but added: “In the event that the DWP does not provide a substantive response by the end of this week, I will seek instructions … as to how to proceed.”

Let’s bear in mind that to prove contempt of court, it must be shown that the DWP has contumeliously (it means scornfully and insultingly; insolently) disregarded the Information Commissioner’s decision that it should divulge all the information I requested. That decision was made on April 30 this year, meaning the DWP has managed to delay honouring that decision by more than five months (so far).

I would say that constitutes contumelious disregard, wouldn’t you?

In response to the email, I have written back as follows: “As far as I can see, the DWP is stringing you along with promises that it doesn’t intend to keep – or perhaps only when it suits ministers. This is not acting in good faith.

“It is many months since the full, complete and unabridged information should have been published. Look at what this organisation has done to prevent that publication – appealing against the Information Commissioner’s ruling, then withdrawing that appeal after several months in order to claim that a limited release of heavily-edited information was a full and frank disclosure, and now delaying from one week to the next.

“This is not acceptable.”

Having withdrawn its appeal against the Information Commissioner’s decision, Iain Duncan Smith must provide all the information I requested – including the full number of people who died after being found fit for work, not just those dying within a two-week period of the end of their claim – or be in contempt of court.

The information should prove extremely interesting, in the light of a coroner’s finding that a DWP ‘fit for work’ decision directly contributed to the death of Michael O’Sullivan in late 2013. The coroner’s verdict was recorded in January 2014 – more than a year before the DWP started issuing – false – claims that there is no evidence to suggest a causal link between DWP benefit decisions and the deaths of claimants.

Some may say that it is impossible to draw any conclusions without this vital information from the DWP.

Some may say the fact that the DWP is failing to provide it – after almost a year and a half – tells us all we need to know.

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This ignorant Tory councillor had better try justifying the deaths his party has caused

Too much for you? Too bad.

Too much for you? Too bad.

What follows should make you very angry: An ignorant Conservative councillor has attacked an opponent in the Labour Party for tweeting an entirely appropriate comparison between Iain Duncan Smith and Adolf Hitler.

Yes, Cllr Ashley Dearnley, leader of the Conservative group in Rochdale – it was perfectly appropriate for North Middleton Cllr Chris Furlong to tweet a picture of Hitler above one of Iain Duncan Smith and imply that the Conservatives may be responsible for the deaths of more disabled people than the Nazi leader – that is what the figures suggest.

Remember, the reference to the killing of 70,000 disabled people by Nazis is compared with only 81,040 people who died in only just over two years under Duncan Smith’s Conservative policies. We don’t have the full figures yet.

Mr Dearnley can’t say that Conservative Government policy has not led to any deaths because we have the case of Michael O’Sullivan to prove that it has.

Not only that, but north London coroner Mary Hassall’s report, blaming Tory policy for Mr O’Sullivan’s suicide, was filed in January 2014, meaning that the Tory Government’s protestations, throughout the summer, that there is no causal link between Mr Duncan Smith’s policies and the deaths of claimants, is proved to be a lie.

Cllr Dearnley, clearly ignorant of the hole into which his party has dug itself, is quoted as follows: “The remarks are appalling and are totally unacceptable. I would expect the Labour Party to withdraw his whip. If the new Labour leader has anything about him, he will make sure he is removed from the Labour party.”

It seems the matter has been referred for investigation by the Labour Party. This Writer would argue that, if Jeremy Corbyn has anything about him, he would celebrate Cllr Furlong’s forthrightness, highlight the support he has gained from disabled people and demand to know why the mainstream media have chosen to ignore this hugely important issue.

“I know if David Cameron heard that any of his councillors made remarks comparing people to Hitler, then David Cameron would make sure that they were removed from the Conservative party. If Corbyn has any mettle about him, he will ensure that this happens,” Cllr Dearnley continued. The rest of us don’t know that, though. We only see a man, whose policies have caused deaths, being rewarded for it.

Speaking to Rochdale Online, Councillor Furlong defended himself: “I posted the tweet because people are dying because of policies instigated by Iain Duncan Smith and the mainstream media is ignoring it. I have been campaigning on these issues for a while now but, for some reason, the mainstream media is choosing to ignore it.”

Join the club, Chris!

If the MSM really wanted to cover this, there are several possible issues to investigate:

  • The fact that in May 2014, I submitted a Freedom of Information Request on the number of incapacity benefit claimants who have died, and the Conservative Government has yet to honour that request with a full and honest answer. It claimed to have done so on August 27 but this was a lie.
  • The fact that part of the Tory Government’s failure to answer my FoI request means we do not know the full number of people who died after being found fit for work under the current government’s brutal regime. We know how many people who had been found fit for work died within two weeks of their claim ending (because they had been found fit for work) – but that is just a fraction of the total number of deaths. Mr O’Sullivan committed suicide six months later, but his death is still directly attributable to government policy. Mark Wood died of starvation, four months after being found fit for work – was the government any less guilty of causing his death?
  • The fact that the mortality rate in the work-related activity group of Employment and Support Allowance is three times the national average, yet these are people who are expected to be fit for work within a year. Attempts have been made to claim that they have conditions that make them more likely to die early, but this is irrelevant as they are pushed out to join the wider population (which has a far lower mortality rate) in any case. If they really do have more serious conditions, they should be in the support group. Right?
  • The fact that the death rates for all claimants of incapacity benefits do not tally with the death rates for Incapacity Benefit/Severe Disablement Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance individually. It is to be expected that the number of claimants won’t tally because people have been migrated from the older benefit to the new, so they may have two claims within a particular year – but you can only die once, and you can only be on one benefit when it happens.
  • The fact that the medical test, taken as part of the work capability assessment for ESA, includes a question about whether the claimant has had suicidal thoughts in the past. If a claimant admits contemplating suicide, the next question is “Why haven’t you done it?” Is this not designed to push the claimant towards taking his/her own life, thus removing themselves from the benefit bill? It’s called chequebook euthanasia, and the Nazis were very fond of it.
  • The fact that, after visiting the Nazi extermination camp at Auschwitz, Iain Duncan Smith himself started using the phrase “Work makes you free” in direct imitation of the words written in German over the camp gates. Those words were, of course, a sick joke – just as Iain Duncan Smith words have been for an unknown number of incapacity benefits claimants. He has recently adapted the phrase, as part of a drive to get even more ill people off the benefit books into “Work makes you healthy” – for which there is no medical proof at all. In the light of this behaviour, it is impossible not to compare this man with Hitler.

The above examples are just off the top of this writer’s head. The Conservative Government, and flunkies like Cllr Dearnley, want to pretend that everything is working perfectly and there is no cause for alarm.

But then, as you can see, the Conservative Government is full of liars.

Thanks to the Same Difference blog for bringing this to our attention.

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Why is the DWP pleading for more time to answer a simple FoI request?

[Picture: Skwawkbox blog]

[Picture: Skwawkbox blog]

Remember the Vox Political Freedom of Information request? The one asking for the number of incapacity benefits claimants who had died between the end of November 2011 and May 28, 2014? The one the DWP claimed to have answered with a ‘statistical release’ on August 27?

The one This Writer proved had answered only those parts of my request that suited the DWP’s own purposes?

Today, I received an email from the Information Commissioner’s solicitor, saying that the Department for Work and Pensions may be able to provide a “substantive” response to queries about the matter by the end of next week. That’s more than 17 months after the original request was submitted! The legal maximum period for a response is 20 working days.

I had written to the Information Commissioner, pointing out that the DWP had not followed the terms of his decision notice but had withdrawn its appeal against that decision. Therefore it must provide all the information – including the full number of people who died after being found fit for work, not just those dying within a two-week period of the end of their claim – or be in contempt of court.

The information about everybody who died after being found fit for work should prove extremely interesting, in the light of a coroner’s finding that a DWP ‘fit for work’ decision directly contributed to the death of Michael O’Sullivan in late 2013. The coroner’s verdict was recorded in January 2014 – more than a year before the DWP started issuing – false – claims that there is no evidence to suggest a causal link between DWP benefit decisions and the deaths of claimants.

So you can see that the DWP is now between a rock and a hard place.

Without any further information from the government department, it is impossible to draw any conclusions. However, since the DWP is saying it needs until early October to provide a response to the Information Commissioner’s queries – let alone my original FoI request, it seems clear that there was never any intention to answer the request in a full and honest manner. It seems that the DWP has instead attempted to answer only those parts of the request that suited its own agenda.

Now that ministers are being made to account for their actions, they are stalling for time. To me, that mitigates very strongly in favour of a finding that the DWP did, indeed contumeliously (it means scornfully and insultingly; insolently) disregard the Information Commissioner’s decision.

That is the current situation. Further updates will appear, as and when appropriate.

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Vox Political on LBC radio to discuss DWP lies

LBC

Vox Political’s Mike Sivier (that’s me) will be appearing on LBC radio at around 1pm to talk about the revelation that a coroner ruled that a man died as a direct result of being involved in a work capability assessment organised by the Department for Work and Pensions.

Thanks to the Daily Mail, we now know that the deceased was 60-year-old Michael O’Sullivan, of Highgate, north London, who took his own life six months after being found fit for work. The Atos assessor never asked him about suicidal thoughts and the DWP decision maker never considered relevant evidence from his doctors.

The DWP said this was because its policy on further evidence was “regrettably not followed in this case” and that it would circulate a reminder. We have no evidence that this was done or that further deaths did not follow because of similar omissions – and any claims by the DWP must be treated as suspicious.

This is because the DWP, knowing that a causal link between the work capability assessment and the death of claimants had been proved by north London coroner Mary Hassall in January 2014, spent the whole summer denying any such link to campaigners and MPs who were demanding publication of up-to-date claimant death statistics.

Even after its statistics – poor as they are – were published, the DWP kept up the pretence. Clearly, we cannot trust a word that comes out of that organisation.

… and that’s what I’ll be saying at around 1pm today.

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The DWP has lied; ministers know ‘fit for work’ decisions lead to death

Too ill to work means too ill to live: Work capability assessors have neglected to carry out their duties properly, and this has led to the deaths of claimants.

Too ill to work means too ill to live: Work capability assessors have neglected to carry out their duties properly, and this has led to the death of at least one claimant.

Let’s get this straight: In an inquest into the death of a disabled man, a coroner ruled in early 2014 that his suicide was a direct result of being declared ‘fit for work’ in a work capability assessment.

Bearing this in mind…

What has the DWP been saying about there being “no causal link” between its administration of the benefit system and the deaths of claimants, again?

Time and time again, we have been told that there is no link between the deaths of any benefit claimants and their treatment by the DWP, even though that government department had at least one report proving the opposite. We can say “at least one report” because we have no evidence to show that coroners have not submitted many, many more.

We do have evidence that the Department for Work and Pensions – and with the Conservative Government as a whole – has been lying to us.

The DWP’s response to the concerns raised by North London coroner Mary Hassall was that its policy on dealing with cases such as that of ‘Mr A’, the deceased, “regrettably was not followed in this case”. And in how many others?

The Atos-employed work capability assessor, responsible for collecting evidence to determine whether Mr A should receive Employment and Support Allowance, had recorded that Mr A was “at no significant risk by working” and failed to ask him if he had suicidal thoughts. Perhaps this is for the best, as we know from experience that the next question is “Why haven’t you killed yourself?” – the query that many of us suspect has ‘nudged’ many towards suicide.

According to Disability News Service, “The Atos healthcare professional had failed to take into account the views of any of Mr A’s doctors during a 90-minute assessment, telling him the DWP decision-maker would look at that evidence instead.

“But the DWP decision-maker did not request any reports or letters from Mr A’s GP (who had assessed him as not being well enough to work), his psychiatrist (who had diagnosed him with recurrent depression and panic disorder with agoraphobia), or his clinical psychologist (who had assessed him as “very anxious and showing signs of clinical depression”). Instead, Mr A was found fit for work. Six months later, he killed himself.”

Six months later? So Mr A would not have appeared in any of the statistics released by the DWP in August, then.

You see how the government has tried to spin its way out of responsibility?

The DNS report continues: “The coroner said in her report that she believed that action should be taken ‘to prevent future deaths’ and that DWP had the power to take such action.

“In its response, DWP said there was a ‘clear policy that further medical evidence [should be requested] in cases where claimants report suicidal ideation in their claim forms which regrettably was not followed in this instance’. It said it planned to issue a reminder to staff about this guidance, but appeared to make no further suggestions for how to prevent further such deaths.”

We have no evidence that any such reminder was issued to staff or that any of them acted upon it if it was.

These are circumstances that should lead to a major prosecution for corporate manslaughter.

According to the Crown Prosecution Service, an organisation is guilty of corporate manslaughter if the way in which its activities are managed or organised causes a person’s death; and amounts to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed by the organisation to the deceased. An organisation is guilty of an offence if the way in which its activities are managed or organised by its senior management is a substantial element in the breach.

It seems clear that, not only has the coroner accused the DWP of such a breach; the Department has admitted it – and failed to take steps to stop it happening again.

Let’s pause for a moment and note that we would not have evidence that the DWP has been lying about the “causal link” between its behaviour and the deaths of benefit claimants without my now-infamous Freedom of Information request – submitted in May 2014, after the inquest into the death of Mr A.

The request called for the number of deaths of anybody who had been found ‘fit for work’ between the end of November 2011 and May 28, 2014. This would, of course, have included the death of Mr A. The DWP failed to include his death in its statistical release of August 27 this year (which the government claims is a response to my request). Only people whose claim ended within two weeks of their death were included in the figures. I have asked the Information Commissioner to enforce publication of the full number of deaths, in line with both my request and his decision notice of April 30 this year.

It is only when the full number of deaths is known that we may be able to start assessing the full, devastating effect of Iain Duncan Smith’s policy of hate towards people with long-term illnesses and disabilities.

For those of us who are working to defend the most vulnerable people in society, important ground has been gained.

But the hardest battle is yet to come.

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