2,300 die within year of being declared ‘fit for work’ by DWP

© Denis Balibouse
More than 2,300 people have died within a year of being found “fit for work” by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), analysis of new data has shown, outraging campaigners.

Figures released by the DWP on Thursday show that over 80 people each month, 2,380 in total, died between December 2011 and February 2014 after a Work Capability Assessment (WCA) found them fit to work.

The data, obtained through Freedom of Information requests, found that during the same time period, 50,580 recipients of employment and support allowance benefit (ESA) had died within 14 days of their claim ending.

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Of this figure, 4 percent had been found fit to work by the DWP.

Campaigners have said the WCA must be overhauled because it is not an accurate way of measuring an individual’s capacity to work.

Critics accepted it was important to treat these figures with caution, however, as they do not state cause of death, meaning it is impossible to see whether the deaths were a direct result of an incorrect assessment.

“We’re not able to comment on these specific statistics as they only tell us the number of people who have died while on employment and support allowance [ESA], not the circumstances or details of these deaths,” said Tom Pollard, policy and campaigns manager at mental health charity Mind.

Nevertheless, we do have serious concerns about the benefit system, particularly for those with mental health problems currently being supported by ESA.

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“The assessment used to decide who is eligible for ESA does not properly take account of the impact having a mental health problem can have on someone’s ability to work. As a result, many people don’t get the outcome that’s right for them, and have to go through a lengthy and stressful appeals process.

“We desperately need to see an overhaul of the system, with more tailored specialized support for people with mental health problems and less focus on pressuring people into work and stopping their benefits,” he added.

The DWP defended the process by which individuals are found fit for work, saying no conclusions could be drawn from the figures.

Any causal effect between benefits and mortality cannot be assumed from these statistics. Additionally, these isolated figures provide limited scope for analysis and nothing can be gained from this publication that would allow the reader to form any judgment as to the effects or impacts of the work capability assessment,” a spokesperson said.

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.”