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12 Jun, 2015 16:04

Number of disabled Brits dying after benefits cut hidden by DWP, petition demands release

Number of disabled Brits dying after benefits cut hidden by DWP, petition demands release

More than 58,000 people have signed a petition demanding the release of figures detailing the number of disabled people to die within six weeks of having their benefits cut. The government has sought to block their publication.

The Change.org petition is demanding the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) figures, requested under Freedom of Information (FoI), are made public.

The Information Commissioner’s Office has said that there is no reason not to publish these figures but Ian Duncan Smith’s department – the Department of Work and Pensions – has launched an appeal to prevent the figures being made public,” the petition reads.

Maggie Zolobajluk, who started the petition and whose husband is disabled, says: “For years there have been reports of people committing suicide or dying from ill-health soon after their benefits are stopped.

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As a partner of someone with a disability, I have been through two benefit appeals and have also been [at] a benefit tribunal representation – so I know from personal experience how stressful the system can be and the impact they have on families. I believe the public needs to know the full impact of benefit changes,” she said.

In 2012, the Department of Work and Pensions published statistics which showed 10,600 people who had been receiving benefits died between January and November 2011.

These figures caused an outcry, although many disabled campaigners disagreed over what the figures actually showed. Ministers then blocked publication of any updated figures,” the petition states.

RT spoke to disability rights campaigner Anita Bellows.

Asked to estimate the death toll, Bellows said: “We have no ways of knowing how many people have died.

For this, we would need to know how many people have died after being found fit work (6 weeks or 2 months afterwards for example).

But because people who have been found fit for work, but are too sick to work and claim JSA [Job Seekers Allowance] are not part anymore of the benefit system, there is no way to know.

Bellow described the day-to-day impact of cuts on disabled people.

The deaths and suicides are just the tip of the iceberg. What the welfare reform has done is to tip over the edge people who were just managing, in very precarious conditions.