Campaigner hits out at 'disability benefits' death stats

Welfare reforms

Questions around how many people die while on out-of-work disability benefits will remain unanswered despite the publication of death statistics today, the campaigner who originally requested the figures has predicted.

Mike Sivier, who sent the original freedom of information request, claimed the Department for Work and Pensions was planning to release the statistics in ratios rather than the actual number of people who have died since November 2011.

The DWP is publishing the figures after the Information Commissioner overruled the Government's attempts to withhold the statistics Mr Sivier originally requested.

In April, the commissioner asked the DWP to publish the number of claimants of incapacity benefit and employment and support allowance who have died between November 2011 until May 2014.

It added this should be broken down to several categories, including the number of claimants found fit for work.

But Mr Sivier claimed today's publication will not answer his original question and will instead show age-standardised mortality rates (ASMRs) rather than the actual number of people who have died.

He said an appeal lodged by the DWP with the Information Commissioner argues that the statistics requested by Mr Sivier were "likely to be misrepresented" and that "incorrect conclusions were likely to be drawn as to the causal links between assessment outcomes and mortality", and that ASMRs will fulfil the campaigner's request.

But Mr Sivier said the department "cannot be trusted", drawing attention to recent outrage over a benefits leaflet which featured made up testimonies from fictional characters called "Jack" and "Sarah".

He said: "They say numbers would be misinterpreted but that is not reasonable because the law stands that all they have to do is have the information and publish it when it is requested.

"It is a reasonable concern but they can manage that."

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