Almost 2,400 people declared ‘fit to work’ and taken off benefits in a controversial government crackdown were DEAD within two weeks
- At least 2,600 sick and disabled people died after being declared fit to work
- The government contractor approved them to work following assessment
- Critics have demanded an inquiry after they died when taken off benefits
Almost 2,400 sick and disabled people died within a fortnight of being declared ‘fit for work’ by a government contractor, within a period of just two years.
New figures released by Iain Duncan Smith’s department – following a battle with campaigners – show that around 100 people per month died shortly after being approved to take a job.
Officials insist that the overall mortality rate for people on out-of-work benefits, and specifically sickness and disability benefits, has fallen in the last decade in line with the rest of the population.
At least 2,600 sick and disabled people died shortly after being declared ‘fit for work’ by a government contractor, according to figures released by Iain Duncan Smith’s department
But Labour MPs and other critics demanded an inquiry as it emerged that 2,380 people died within 14 days of being taken off Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) because they were declared ‘fit to work’ after a controversial assessment process.
A further 270 died within six weeks of being taken off Incapacity Benefit or Severe Disablement Allowance – older benefits which are now being phased out – taking the total to 2,650 between December 2011 and February 2014.
Atos, the French firm which carried out the health assessments was dropped by the government earlier this year, after a series of complaints that people were wrongly recommended for work.
Kate Green MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Work and Pensions, said: ‘These figures should be a wake-up call for the Government. Ministers need to focus on sorting out the assessment process so that everyone can have confidence in it, and providing support for disabled people who can work in order to help them do so.’
Claimants for ESA must have Work Capability Assessment and are divided into a ‘work-related activity group’ who could do some work with the right help, and a ‘support group’ who are not expected to work. Around two million assessments have been carried out since 2010.
The figures from the Department of Work and Pensions showed that 1,360 people had completed an appeal against the decision before they died, although it is unknown how many were upheld.
Some previous figures suggested 42pc of appeals against the company’s decisions were upheld. Government officials are now seeking a new company to carry out the assessments.
Labour leadership contender Andy Burnham said: ‘These are shocking figures that for the first time show the human cost of this Government’s punishing benefits regime. It raises serious questions about this Government’s punitive approach to people on benefits.’
Labour leadership contender Andy Burnham said the figures were a consequence of the Government’s ‘punishing benefits regime’
David Cameron announced in June that the controversial statistics showing how many people who have died after losing their benefits would be published.
A Freedom of Information request to release them was blocked by the DWP, after Mr Duncan Smith said his department did not collect these numbers.
But the Information Commissioner’s Office overruled this decision in April this year and said the figures should be published within 35 days. The DWP appealed but have now released them.
The department say claimants with the most serious conditions are being ‘correctly assigned to the support group’ – as its mortality rate is around three times higher than the work group.
Many of those found ‘fit for work’ go on to claim Jobseekers’ Allowance, which is paid at a lower rate of £73 a week – compared with up to £103 a week for those on ESA.
A DWP spokesman said: ‘The mortality rate for people who have died while claiming an out-of-work benefit has fallen over a ten-year period. This is in line with the more mortality rate for the general working-age population. The Government continues to support millions of people on benefits with an £80 billion working-age welfare safety net in place.’
A source close to Mr Duncan Smith warned against ‘scaremongering’. ‘This is a sensitive and complex issue and the reality is the mortality rate for people who have died while claiming an out-of-work benefit has fallen over a 10-year-period’, the source said.
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