Figures released yesterday showed that between December 2011 and February 2014 [27 months] 2,340 people died within a month of completing the Work Capabilities Assessment [WCA] being deemed ‘fit-for-work’ and having their claim to Employment Support Allowance [ESA, both contribution paid and income based] stopped. Of the 81,140 people who died while claiming the three benefits in question it was whittled that 86 people per calendar month died shortly after a decision was made about them. Sadly, there is no breakdown as to how these people died, but it is hard to quantify that they all had tragic fatal transport related accidents or their demise was link to a third party.
The Mortality Statistics: ESA, Incap & SDA Report makes for some pretty sad and horrendous reading, the report can be found on the gov.uk site via this link Mortality Report Throughout the report there is a trite phrase that is parroted, as if to exonorate any person, group or organisation of any culpability
DWP does not hold information on the reason for death, therefore no causal effect between the WCA decision and the number of people who died within a year of that decision should be assumed from these figures.
For the period 1 May 2010 to 28 February 2013 there were over 2,000,000 WCA decisions issued and over 40,500 died – sounds rather a lot of people, but these applications cover every conceivable scenario possible as to what makes a person not fit to find full time employment themselves, elements such as heart disease, patients waiting transplants, people with terminal cancer or other life-shortening conditions; it sounds callous but deaths were expected.
There has been immense controversy with the business of transferring people from one benefit to another and reassessing their criteria under new guidelines. It was given to a profit conscious business, who quickly trained staff to follow a scripted criteria, that was then swamped with the volume of cases they received, and failed to fully understand the medical evidence given to them. Now not every single fault was ATOS’s doing, people found the forms confusing [one size most certainly does not fit all], crucial everyday elements were not reported on forms and so the assessor interpreted erroneously. The medical staff employed/contracted to do the face-to-face medical assessment were not aware or trained to the assumed UK standard and then their reports were mis-interpreted.
The benefit system in this country was/is in drastic need of overhauling, for decades it had been patched, bodged, tinkered, tweaked, abused and incorrectly implemented – yes there were tens of thousands of people who had never had their decisions questioned [I was one of them], short term decisions to save statistics have a life long effect. It was all too easy to fraudulently claim, it is getting tougher but still not too difficult.
However the process of this shake-up and reassessment has been fraught with stress and desperation. There are many genuine cases who have fallen foul of the system and been denied access to support [financial, physical, emotional] that they need. The utter weight of importance, the stress of waiting for the thunk of the awful brown envelope [for one of my benefits that was over three months], for many was torture – I am in no way surprised that people have taken their own life because of it, that was the depth of despair and the magnitude of desperation that these people were driven to.
Spear heading this almost witch-hunt has been a politician who appears to sneer and laugh at such atrocities, a person who has lied to peers, parliament and others more than he has possibly told the truth, but within the walls of his fellow suits he is almost a hero for reducing the benefit expenditure.
So, death is now considered an acceptable method of managing statistics.
How disgustingly, contemptuously, sad.