The DWP has released figures on the deaths of people claiming ESA and related benefits between December 2011 and February 2014. There has been a lot of comment about them on the Net. I’m not sure I can make clear sense of them – it’s far from clear, for example, how much overlap there might be between different categories. The most striking figures seem to be that
- 81,140 people died while on ESA, Incapacity Benefit or Severe Disablement Allowance. It’s difficult to make much of the gross figure, because people on long-term sickness benefits are ill, and very much more ill than the rest of the population.
- 7,200 people who died had been assessed as being in the Work Related Activity Group. There are no real criteria for selection for the WRAG – it’s a residual group of people who have been assessed as having a limited capacity to work but who don’t get in to the support group because they have very serious limitations or terminal illness. One has to question the wisdom, however, of treating people as requiring work-related support when they are ill enough to be close to death.
- 2,380 people died within two weeks of being assessed as Fit for Work on ESA, and 1340 died within two weeks of their appeal against a Fit for Work decision being decided. The figures miss out those between the two states, including those whose appeals have not yet been heard; this is certainly an underestimate of the misjudgments.
People die for all sorts of reasons, but these were all people who told the DWP that they were too ill to work, and weren’t believed. Is it really more important to weed out weaker claims than it is to offer safe, secure social protection?