August 30, 2015
(ANTIMEDIA) United Kingdom — Figures released this week by the Department for Work and Pensions have revealed that thousands died after being found ”fit for work” following the controversial Work Capability Assessment.
“The fact that more than 80 people are dying each month shortly after being declared ‘fit for work’ should concern us all,” Trade Union Congress General Secretary Francis O’Grady said, calling for an urgent enquiry into the figures.
The DWP has fought a long and hard battle to keep the numbers under wraps, initially rejecting the Freedom of Information request submitted by journalist Mike Sivier.
Not giving up without a fight, Sivier appealed to the Information Commissioner (ICO), a body that judges whether or not government departments are acting with transparency. The ICO went on to overrule the DWP’s attempt at secrecy, stating they had no good reason for withholding the figures.
The figures, released on Thursday, show that of the 4,010 who died after being deemed ”fit for work,” 3,720 were in receipt of Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and others were on Incapacity Benefit (IB) or Severe Disablement Allowance (SDA). The tragic statistics cover the period from December 2011 – February 2014 and uncover the number of people who died after undergoing the notorious Work Capability Assessment (WCA.)
The assessment is used to determine if disabled claimants or those suffering from long-term illnesses are entitled to sickness benefits. Claimants complete a questionnaire and attend a medical interview where a computerized test is used to assess how well the individual can carry out a range of physical and mental activities.
In June, The British Psychological Society called for fundamental reform of the WCA. It claimed that seriously ill people were being inappropriately subjected to the assessment, which does not effectively measure fitness for work and produces inappropriate outcomes.
The DWP’s report, “Mortality Statistics: Employment and Support Allowance, Incapacity Benefit or Severe Disablement Allowance,” revealed an astonishing total of 4,010 people who died after being found fit for work. Despite its own grim revelation, the report reiterates throughout that “Any causal effect between benefits and mortality cannot be assumed from these statistics.”
Campaigner Mike Sivier, who originally requested the figures, is not prepared to accept the continued denial of a link between the punitive system and the deaths. He stated he may now push for the details of each cause of death — including cases of suicide.
According to HuffPost Politics, Shadow Minister for Work and Pensions Kate Green said that “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.”
At a leadership election meeting on Thursday, Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn called the figures “frightening and disgusting.” He added that Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith should resign over the latest damning indictment.
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Michaela Whitton joined Anti-Media as its first journalist abroad in May of 2015. Her topics of interest include human rights, conflict, the Middle East, Palestine, and Israel. Born and residing in the United Kingdom, she is also a photographer. Learn more about Whitton here!