THE Department for Work and Pensions yesterday released shocking mortality figures in response to a number of Freedom of Information requests concerning ‘the number of people who have died within a year of their Work Capability Assessment since May 2010’.
Public and Commercial Services union general secretary Mark Serwotka said: ‘What lies behind these figures is a cruel climate generated by some politicians and sections of the media that seeks to demonise those in need and undermine public confidence in our welfare state.
‘The government should listen to the very real fears of sick and disabled claimants that its policies are making matters worse, not better, and it should not have taken freedom of information requests to uncover these statistics. The wholly privatised work capability assessment is clearly unfair and unsuitable and should be scrapped, with jobcentres given the proper resources to provide the support sick and disabled people need and deserve.’
The DWP statistics show that 2,380 people died between December 2011 and February 2014 shortly after a work capability assessment (WCA) found they were able to work, that is equivalent to 80 a month. The data also revealed that between December 2011 and February 2014, 50,580 recipients of Employment and Support Allowance benefit (ESA) had died within 14 days of their claim ending.
Of this number, 2,380, or 4%, had received a decision that they were fit for work, meaning that they were at risk of losing their ESA benefit. Of the 50,580, 7,200 claimants had died after being awarded ESA and being placed in the work-related activity group – a category which aims to identify claimants who are unfit to work but may be able to return to work in the future.
‘Total with a WCA decision of “fit for work”, 2,380. Total with a completed appeal following a WCA decision of “fit for work”, 1,340.’
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady called for an urgent inquiry into the back-to-work regime.
She said: ‘The fact that more than 80 people are dying each month shortly after being declared “fit for work” should concern us all. We need a welfare system that supports people to find decent jobs not one that causes stress and ill health.’
Disability Benefits Consortium co-chairman Rob Holland said: ‘These tragic figures are concerning and warrant further investigation. We know the fit for work test is failing disabled people, with devastating consequences. Wrong decisions can mean people are left with little or no support at all, in some cases struggling to pay for their homes and basic essentials like food and heating.’