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Information Commissioner asked to rule on vulnerable claimant deaths

Benefits and Work has asked the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to intervene as the DWP continues to ignore requests for further information about secret reports into claimant deaths.

Disability News Service discovered last year that the DWP had carried out secret reviews into the deaths of 49 claimants. The DWP have refused to publish details of those reviews.

In June of this year Benefits and Work made a freedom of information request asking:

a) How many of the 49 claimants whose deaths were peer reviewed were ESA claimants who were, or had recently been, on the work programme.

b) How many of these were deemed to be vulnerable claimants in relation to ‘safeguarding’ procedures.

However, while the DWP admit that they hold this information, they refuse to hand it over on the grounds that:

“The Department considers this to be confidential information about our clients gathered by civil servants in the course of their duties. This being the case Section 123 of the Social Security Administration Act 1992 (SSAA) prohibits the release of such information.”

We don’t for a moment accept the DWP’s grounds for refusal.

We asked for a review of the decision. Initially the DWP told us that they would give us their response by 25 August. When that date passed we contacted them and asked for a response within 7 days.

We received only an automated response.

At the end of 7 days we told the DWP we would now be contacting the ICO.

We received only an automated response.

We have now passed all the correspondence to the ICO.

Given the recent revelation that a coroner has ruled that a claimant’s suicide was triggered by being wrongly found fit for work, the DWP’s refusal to give more information about these deaths becomes increasingly suspicious.

We’ll keep readers informed.


+1 #2 naheegan 2015-09-27 18:37
Thank you B&W for doing this and this informative bit of news.
+5 #1 tintack 2015-09-23 01:56
Could the UN inquiry demand this information from the DWP? I hope so.

Things don't seem to be going too well for IDS and the DWP. First they were forced to release the ESA death stats, having fought tooth and nail to keep them secret, but claimed no link between wrong fit for work decisions and claimant deaths could be made. IDS then said he wanted to make the WCA even harsher, apparently ignoring the publication of the death stats (perhaps he still thought they didn't exist, as he claimed on the floor of the Commons).

Now we learn that a direct link had indeed been established in at least one case between a wrong fit for work decision and a claimant death when the DWP issued their statement claiming otherwise. Now we have this pressure on the DWP to release details of the 49 internal reviews of claimant deaths, and the UN inquiry due to report next year. We also now have a Labour party led by a man who is actually willing to fight our corner. If IDS does try to make the WCA even harsher he may find it harder than he thinks.

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