David Cameron told MPs yesterday that the notorious employment and support allowance (ESA) death statistics “are being prepared for publication as we speak”. However, campaigner Mike Sivier warns that the statistics the DWP are planning to release are, in fact, a deliberate con designed to cover-up the number of people who have died under the ESA regime. By keeping the truth hidden, more lives are being put at risk.
Cameron’s claim that figures are to be published came yesterday at prime minister’s questions, when Labour MP Marie Rimmer asked:
“The Prime Minister has repeatedly been reported as saying that he wants to create “a new era of transparency in government.” Given that desire, why is the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions refusing to release the statistics relating to the deaths of people who have been declared fit for work, which he has been instructed to do by the Information Commissioner? Will the Prime Minister intervene and get the Secretary of State to comply with the spirit of his desire and the instruction of the Information Commissioner?”
“First, let me reassure the hon. Lady that the data will be published; they are being prepared for publication as we speak. I think that it is important that we publish data, and this Government have published more data about public spending than any previous Government.”
Cameron’s announcement comes just days after Iain Duncan Smith told Labour MPs that asking him to publish the statistics was ‘absurd’, ‘disgraceful’ and ‘unbelievable’. IDS even went on to claim, bizarrely, that the statistics did not exist.
However, Vox Political blogger Mike Sivier is warning that the DWP plan to publish figures that will hide, not reveal, the number of claimants who died within six weeks of being found fit for work.
Sivier bases his claim on a submission made by the DWP to the Information Commissioner during his battle to have the figures released.
The DWP argued that the ESA death statistics:
“ . . . were likely to be misinterpreted. Specifically, incorrect conclusions were likely to be drawn as to causal links between assessment outcomes and mortality. Such misinterpretations would be contrary to the public interest, particularly given the emotive and sensitive context of mortality statistics”
Instead, the DWP argued, people should wait for a separate set of Age Standardised Mortality Rate (ASMR) figures that the department has been preparing.
ASMR figures are adjusted to take account of the fact that there are more older people in some areas of the country than in others. It allows researchers to try examine whether there are higher mortality rates in one place due to, say, people being poorer or whether it’s simply because more retired people live there.
ASMR figures will not, therefore, tell you how many people died within six weeks of being placed in the work-related activity group, for example. Instead, they are likely to be expressed in rates per 100,000 with an upper and lower limit.
In addition, it appears that the DWP are planning to release figures that go back 10 years, before ESA was even introduced and may not even break figures down into specific benefits, let alone specific components of that benefit.
The original figures showed that between January and November 2011, 1,300 claimants died within six weeks of being placed in the work-related activity group.
What campaigners want is to see the actual numbers of deaths that occurred November 2011 and May 2014, so that a comparison can be made.
The DWP it would seem, will go to any lengths to prevent that comparison.
The Conservatives hope that by releasing these statistics they will be able to con people into thinking they are being open whilst, in reality, engaging in a cover-up that could well be costing the lives of thousands of claimants.
Whether they succeed will depend on how many people fall for their con trick.