Government Finally Reveals That More Than 4,000 Died Within Six Weeks Of Being Deemed ‘Fit For Work’


Figures released today show that between December 2011 to February 2014, 4,010 people died after being told they were fit for work, following a Work Capability Assessment (WCA). 40,680 died within a year of undergoing the WCA, making a bleak mockery of any claim that the WCA is a real and valid “assessment” of any kind. Or that our welfare system is “supportive” to those in most need, in any real or meaningful sense. Those people were clearly not at all “fit for work”.

Of the total figure, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has revealed that 1,360 died after losing an appeal against the DWP decision that they were “fit for work”.

The statistical release actually tells us very little and makes inferences regarding causes of deaths almost impossible, as well as presenting data in a way that makes useful comparisons impossible. This is of course intentional.

The Government release does show that more than 80 people a month are dying after being declared “fit for work”.  2,380 people died between December 2011 and February 2014 shortly after being judged “fit for work” and after having their claim for ESA turned down.  7,200 claimants died after being awarded ESA and being placed in the work-related activity group (WRAG), which is an ESA group category comprised of people whom the government had judged were able to work towards getting back into work over time.

The figures have only been released after the Information Commission overruled a Government decision to block the statistics being made public.

Since November 2012, many campaigners, including myself, have been asking the Government to release the figures of people who died after being told they were fit for work. As Chi Onwurah, Labour MP for Newcastle, said earlier this year:

“When bad decisions are made I know they can have a life-destroying impact on vulnerable people. So it makes sense for the Government to share that data.”

The DWP originally published statistics in July 2012 after several of us submitted Freedom of Information requests (FOIs) for mortality rates related to the WCA. The released statistics indicated that 10,600 people had died between January and November 2011 who had been claiming Employment Support Allowance (ESA), and where the date of death was within six weeks of the claim ending.

The DWP publication caused huge controversy, although many people disagreed over what the figures actually showed. Ministers subsequently blocked publication of any updated figures.

At the time, I made a statistical cross-comparison of deaths, and the information released showed that people having their claim for ESA stopped, between October 2010 and November 2011, with a recorded date of death within six weeks of that claim ceasing, who were until recently claiming Incapacity Benefit (IB) – and who were migrated onto ESA – totalled 310. Between January and November 2011, those having their ESA claim ended, with a recorded date of death within six weeks of that claim ending totalled 10,600. The DWP did not provide information regarding whether or not people had died before or after their benefit claim was ended, which (intentionally) complicated matters.

However, there is a very substantial and significant statistical variation over a comparatively similar time scale (although the 10,600 deaths actually happened over a shorter time scale – by 3 months) that appears to be correlated with the type of benefit and, therefore, the differing eligibility criteria – the assessment process itself – as both population samples of claimants on ESA and IB contain little variation regarding the distribution in the cohorts in terms of severity of illness or disability. 

Bearing in mind that those who were successfully migrated to ESA from IB were assessed and deemed unfit for work, (under a different assessment process, originally) one would expect that the death rates would be similar to those who have only ever claimed ESA.

This is very clearly not the case. And we know that the ESA assessment process has actually excluded many seriously ill people from entitlement because of the media coverage of individual tragic cases, when a person deemed fit for work by Atos has died soon after the withdrawal of their lifeline benefit, and of course, such accounts of constituents’ experiences and case studies, as evidence, informs Parliamentary debate, as well as the ongoing Work and Pension Committee inquiry into ESA, details of which may be found on the Hansard parliamentary record.

The official watchdog ordered the Government to release further information about how many people have died after going through the WCA which had resulted in a decision that they were fit for work, since the last publication in 2012.

The ruling was made after an appeal by Mike Sivier, a fellow campaigner, freelance journalist and carer that runs the Vox Political blog, who has himself been pushing for the figures to be published since the summer of 2013.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady has also called for an urgent enquiry into the figures, and said:

“We urgently need an enquiry into the government’s back-to-work regime. These disturbing findings cannot be swept under the carpet.

The fact that more than 80 people are dying each month shortly after being declared ‘fit for work’ should concern us all. These deaths relate to just one benefit – Employment Support Allowance (ESA).

We need a welfare system that supports people to find decent jobs not one that causes stress and ill health.”

The figures show that of the 4,010 who died after being told they were “fit for work”, 3,720 were in receipt of ESA, while 290 were on either Incapacity Benefit or its replacement, Severe Disablement Allowance.

The DWP were keen to stress throughout its “Mortality Statistics” report that: “Any causal effect between benefits and mortality cannot be assumed from these statistics.” 

However, it cannot and must not be assumed that there is no causal effect either, and I’ve argued at length that in fact evidence shows there IS a clear statistical correlation between the controversial Work Capability Assessment, the withdrawal of benefits and increased mortality.

I’ve argued many times that the correlation warrants further investigation into the causes of the statistically significant increase in mortality rates of those on Employment Support Allowance. Sometimes correlation implies causality. The Government have continued to flatly deny that correlation, claiming it was based on “anecdotal” evidence. 

Priceless comment from a Government that values the use of fake statistics to justify punitive, cruel “reforms” to our Social Security.

It’s inconceivable that the Government did not know in advance that cutting sick and disabled people’s lifeline support would cause them harm. It’s not exactly difficult to grasp that if you impose situations of a lot of stress and strain on very ill people, by, for example, imposing a constant revolving door of assessment, appeal and re-assessment on them, perpetually invalidating their experiences of being extremely ill, and then demanding that they find a job when they are incapable of coping and too ill to work, and withdrawing their LIFELINE benefits, that these people are likely to suffer severe exacerbations of their illness and may die prematurely.

Arguing that this group of people are seriously ill and may die anyway is NOT a reason to deny any association between policies and and increase in mortality rates. 

The increase in screaming “scrounger” headlines, scapegoating and propaganda-styled justification narratives in the tabloids that precedes each of the Tory Government’s punitive policies is another indication that Ministers know in advance that those policies are potentially damaging and detrimental to the vulnerable people they are aimed at.

The deliberate delay in the publication of the mortality figures is not only a disgrace for a so-called democratic Government that promised more “transparency and accountability” when it first took office, it also indicates that the Government had some awareness of the likely impact of their “reforms” to disability benefits. Hence the persistent refusal to carry out a cumulative impact assessment and the continued refusal to undertake an investigation into the causes of the increase in deaths, along with keeping the mortality figures from public scrutiny.

This suggests a Government withholding the evidence of policies that they knew in advance are likely to be detrimental to those they are aimed at, and also, of attempting to avoid justified criticism and to silence those of us the policies are likely to harm.

Had the Government been certain that there is no connection between their policies and harm, distress and an increased risk of mortality, I am certain that both an independent inquiry and a cumulative impact assessment would have happened by now.  As it is, when we raise our legitimate concerns about the impact of policies on some of the most vulnerable citizens, we are met with techniques of neutralisation, including accusations of ‘scaremongering’.

It’s time this authoritarian strategy was replaced with an evidenced-based, democratic approach to address these pressing issues. To date, it is the Government that has presented anecdotal evidence and treated the established correlation between their policies and increased harm to citizens as trivial and politically inconvenient. It’s also telling that Conservative ministers have consistently refused to meet with the disabled community.

With no democratic dialogue established, it’s easier for the Government to edit and invalidate citizens’ accounts of their lived experiences, imposing and presenting their own version of events instead.

Meanwhile, the Work Capability Assessment needs to be scrapped. 

See also:

The DWP release: Mortality Statistics: Employment and Support Allowance, Incapacity Benefit or Severe Disablement Allowance

Thousands have died after being found fit for work, DWP figures show – Patrick Butler

ESA ‘Revolving Door’ Process, and its Correlation with a Significant Increase in Deaths amongst Sick and Disabled People

Black Propaganda

Known number of deaths while claiming incapacity benefits nears 100,000 – Mike Sivier

What you need to know about Atos assessments

As predicted, Mandatory Review has effectively destroyed independent Tribunals

Clause 99, Catch 22 – State sadism and silencing the vulnerable

UK becomes the first country to face a UN inquiry into disability rights violations

Aktion Arbeitsscheu Reich, Human Rights and infrahumanisation

A distillation of thoughts on Tory policies aimed at the vulnerable


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63 thoughts on “Government Finally Reveals That More Than 4,000 Died Within Six Weeks Of Being Deemed ‘Fit For Work’

  1. I was asking Mike if he had heard about an audit report commissioned by the Tories before some of these reforms came through and that might have highlighted likely deaths from proposed reforms. Hunting down the references to it here and thought I would ask you too. As Mike points out the cumulative values over the years is shocking, upwards of 90K and that’s not including the last year and a bit.

    Given that even harsher cuts and reforms are to be put in place soon and given that Job Centre and ‘point of contact’ staff have been given training on how to handle suicidal claimants, its a fucking disaster. The social conditioning of the public through a steady and now saturated diet of ‘poverty porn’ and disgraceful right wing press pieces, makes me fear that significant sections of them will be ambivalent to these and future needless deaths and in the worse cases some may actually welcome them.


    1. I’ve been arguing for a long time that the govt knew what the likely consequences are of their cumulative “reforms”, hence hiding the evidence. They changed the appeals system, because the many won appeals indicated clearly that something was very wrong with the DWP decision making and the Atos assessment process. Now people can’t appeal until they have gone through mandatory review, with no basic rate ESA to survive on. There’s no time limit on the MR either, so DWP can take as long as they like.

      The screaming scapegoating and justification narratives which precedes any policy that is likely to be harmful to those it is aimed at is another give away clue that the government knows exactly what the consequences to their cruel and punitive policies are.

      And the fact that no cumulative impact assessments were undertaken is another indication of guilt, that they knew in advance that the policies would cause harm. And anyway, how difficult is it to grasp that if you cause sick and disabled people a lot of stress, withdraw their LIFELINE benefits, then they may die?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Nudge Unit and tactics but nudging into suicide and early death it seems. The announcement this week that DWP staff were to receive training on how to handle suicide risks and cases etc., could be very much related to their understanding of the nature of some of these deaths in the tallies released today.

        Possible assisted suicide and state assisted euthanasia will start to merge with this debate on these DWP disabled claimant deaths, I fear, in terms of this perception of ‘burden’ and ‘poverty porn’ and the framing of claimants as a burden and undeserving just like the ‘poor’ and even ‘migrants’ whose boats must be bombed (but with them not in them?!?!).

        Infirm and disabled claimants coerced and nudged into suicide and premature death otehrwise, perhaps knowowingly and including the terminally ill amongst their number. How long until that coercion merges with assisted suicide? That friendly GP merged come ATOS/MAXIMUS NLP master assessor nudging away; “what’s that, terminally ill in receipt of benefits and possibly up for work assessment, well, have you considered Dignitas?”. Over dramatic I might be but culturally it is a frightening direction we are own collectively.

        On this cultural point, there are ample examples now of some very disturbed individuals, often amongst our young, who are using the Internet to engage with certain online communities to trigger and talk people into committing suicide. Those cases might be few in number but they are highly indicative in the wider cultural context of what I feel is going on and what will happen.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Not all of those deaths that Mike cited are related to being passed as “fit for work” or to the assessment process. Some had their benefit stopped after they had died. What we need to ask is why the DWP won’t seperate the data so that we know who died as a consequence of having their benefit claim ended.


    3. Leave you a link, James to University Warwick page listing a trove of “Reports on the Impact of Public Spending on Different Disadvantaged Groups within the UK”, produced by a large number of reputable organisations. I see only two by DWP, those regarding Equality impact of Benefits cuts and UC. Note that during various consultation phases of ‘welfare reform’ the majority of these reputable organisations did submit their reports to various governmental departments; any data, information or stats in them would have therefore been brought to the attention of government. Further to this, there may be someone at U. Warwick who can actually come up with the document you are seeking or at least a lead on it; some contact info at the bottom of this linked page. Good luck.

      Liked by 1 person

    4. Yes this is indeed true.I predicted when this terrible demonisation started that it would lead to the general populous wanting or wishing that these so called “parasites” would just die,and of course having my finger on the pulse of public opinion,this is now true.They now have several tens of millions of unemployed people throughout the globe who need to be got rid of through war,poverty or murder.This is an obvious case of the cutting off of the dead meat to preserve the rest of humanity,or so they believe,natural selection at work.What else would you expect from the real parasites who lets face it have so much control that things will never change as too many people poor and wealthy rely on the current system and are afraid of losing the prescious little they have.Fortunately when we meet our maker we all have to answer for our sins and these people will pay dearly!


      1. I also refered to Allport’s scale of prejudice back in 2012, and the recognisable psychosocial processes involved in how societies come to accept political messages that some people’s lives are worth less than others, and ultimately, come to accept the unthinkable – genocide


  2. These figures are horrendous. They need to be given maximum publicity, along with the lies which were told by Duncan-Smith as he prevaricated in his attempts to wriggle and squirm out of being forced to release them. These nasty people are common criminals and should be put on trial for what they are doing to people who can’t fight back. Finally, congratulations to Mike Sivier for his dogged determination in insisting they be released.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. If I were to have message to be assessed again I don’t think I can do it, I retired through I’ll health from being a psyciactric nurse 20 years ago so get pension, illness cost me my marriage, and now after divorce I have my routine so I know what’s happening, if I was forced to work, I couldn’t cope and rather die as it would mess up my medication of 17 tablets a day and fentanyl patch every 3 days, I’m sure an employer wouldn’t like a person who falls over at random. Moan over

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sorry to hear of your illness and experiences, Adrian.

      Most people would prefer to be well enough to work, I know I would, I miss the job, I miss my contribution to improving the lives of young people, feeling useful and miss the lifestyle I had from earning a decent salary.

      You’re right. Employers don’t want disabled people, especially those who need reasonable adjustments in the workpace, that may cost money, and time off for hospital appointments and weekly treatments. And the govt has cut the support, anyway. The ILF used to help people with disabilities who worked. That’s now gone, as has the legal obligation on employers to provide reasonable adjustments in the workplace.

      I was due a re-assessment this year. I was put in the support group last time I was assessed. I collapsed at the Atos appointment and the doctor I saw sent me home in a taxi which Atos paid for. He recommended I was put in the support group, and I was.

      I’ve had 3 assessments and the first led to tribunal as I was told I’m fit for work. The fight made me ill, and I couldn’t face that again. At the time I was fighting, my home was repossessed, as I had no income to pay the mortgage,and the physical strain of a house move to rented accommodation nearly killed me.

      I’ve also worked as a youth and community worker, then in the social work/mental health field afer completing my MA. There is a significant risk to others as well as myself, should I be forced to work again within my own profession because I am so ill, sometimes. The tribunal panel agreed with this and my ESA was reinstated. I’ve a chronic illness called Lupus. Re-assessment won’t find any improvement.


  4. Hi there Is your first statement really correct?
    “Figures released today show that between December 2011 to February 2014, 4,010 people died after being told they were fit for work, following a Work Capability Assessment (WCA). 40,680 died within a year of undergoing the WCA, making a bleak mockery of any claim that the WCA being a real and valid “assessment” of any kind.”
    More specifically “40,680 died within a year of undergoing the WCA,”?
    I could not find any figures in the linked reports to back this up.
    By the way I am in total agreement that the WCA is wrong and I would go further to say the whole system is corrupt and the government morally bankrupt.
    Thanks for your help.


  5. Can somebody tell me why the united nations or the court of human rights isnt doing anything about this seemingly mass manslaughter by this genocidal regime, or are we to simply lie back and do nothing, and as one wise soul put it, when good men do nothing, evil rules supreme.


    1. The UN has opened an inquiry into the Human Rights abuses of disabled people –

      It’s down to us to make complaint, submit evidence and ensure that cases are brought against the govt – that’s how it works.

      Some of my own work has gone to the UN as evidence. Anyone affected by this govt’s policies may contact them.


  6. I have been reading a very interesting piece, by a Nurse who applied and was trained to be an ATOS assessor.
    The nurse in question Mrs Joyce Drummond, left after a month, as her conscience would not allow her to continue, as she said, persecuting the sick and disabled. What interested me more, was the fact that during her training she was told she was not nurses, but assessors, a Health care professional. she was also told that she would not make the final decision, as that was the job of the decision maker, who she explains has no medical background. Now as an ex Medic myself, I feel that a greater understanding needs to be made available, as to who has what powers. if the decision maker has no medical qualification, then they must be guided by what has been written on the computer LIMA system ( logic integrated medical assessment) which means in my book, that the decision is made by the only medically qualified person that being the HCP at the time of the assessment. This brings me to my conclusion, HCP’s are made up of GP’s, physiotherapists, Nurses, and now I believe they are trying to incorporate Paramedics. all who are registered by the medical council.
    Now I turn to the amount of claims that are overturned by appeal. This now means their has been a miscarriage in the HCP report and a greater medical authority overturns their decision, which would bring into question is the HCP in breach of their medical practice? .If this is the case, a claim should be allowed to be made against the medically qualified person, to the medical council, and if found they are to be at fault should be taken from the medical register and not be allowed to practice.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I worked with Joyce, using the info she gave me to write pieces that will help people undergoing assessments. Here’s one –

      and this was another –

      As Atos are not conducting a medical assessment, but rather, a work capability one, I think that is how Atos sidesteps the issue of medical professional ethics and code of conduct.


  7. Thanks Kittysjones So just who is the medically trained person to make the decision that you are fit for work, as it takes a medically trained person to say that you cant work


      1. Kittyjones this brigs me to my first post, that some one who is medically trained could and should be held accountable should their decision have to be overturned by a higher authority. and a case of malpractice bought against them, as they would be professionally responsible.


      2. They aren’t in a “medical” role, that would be the argument that Atos and the government will present. They are in a role of assessing who is “fit for work”, which, as we know, is simply a political Newspeak way of saying “removing people’s benefits”.


  8. Two days later still in shock at these long-awaited numbers. Not prone to depression, but this has made me feel at rock-bottom. Not helped has been the online commentary that expresses complete apathy and indifference or even outright glee that claimants have died and implied that this has relieved the taxpayer of an undesired burden.
    These numbers are almost too big to contemplate. Reading the largest possible number of deaths counted by another blogger, I wanted to know what a group of 91,000 people looked like en mass; it is 1,000 more than would fit in Wembley Stadium. Whether the numbers are actually 91,00 or 50,000 matters little; it’s incomprehensible that the dialogue has largely been about the statistical figures, whether they are accurate or meaningful. Nothing about the individuals, their lives, the tens of thousands of bereaved families and orphaned children, the sheer numbers of people who are no longer with us, no moment of silence, no national grieving, no collective gesture of mourning.
    A very public display of a national moment of reflection and mourning for all who have died would be very appropriate.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This is awful and makes me realise how lucky I am to have some good people working with me that helped me with my ESA assessment earlier this year, which was gruelling but got the result that we had hoped for.

    Iain Duncan Smith apparently gave a talk before this was released, which suggested that they were going to have a look at and scrap the current WCP’s. Which should really give us some hope, but I have a bad feeling they will come up with something worse with a view to getting as many people placed In the WCG or onto Job Seekers.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. how many people in work died during the same period?? I mean people who thought they were fit to work, wanted to work, and then died whilst they were in work. Your statistics are meaningless unless they are compared against something solid. People die every day, whether in work or not – your associating the two things is really quite juvenile and unworthy of serious scrutiny.


    1. You have somehow managed to miss the most important issues raised so far – and there is a history to this development which I suggest you research before commenting on it. If people are dying as a consequence of a government’s policy, then it is hardly “juvenile” and “unworthy of investigation”. I take it you aren’t a sick and disabled person in the UK.

      There is an established correlation from previous stat releases in 2011, which showed the mortality rates over the same timescale of people claiming two kinds of disability benefits (IB and ESA), making direct comparison possible between the two groups. The one entailing the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) which is not based on medical evidence, but on “functional capacity”, showed a massive increase in mortality rates over a slightly shorter timespan than the IB group, too – ESA (IB was 310, ESA was 10, 600). People on IB were being migrated onto ESA at the time, indicating that the group is comprised of the same cohort of people, pretty much, with on average the same level of illness and disability, so we would expect that the mortality rates for both groups would be pretty much the same. That clearly is not the case. The assessment process is the major difference between the two benefits. People on ESA have to undergo the WCA, and very frequently, which is a particularly stressful process – widely reported, whereas the IB assessment was based on medical evidence alone.

      Although correlation doesn’t necessarily equal causality, it quite often DOES indicate the possibility of a causal relationship, and as such, warrants FURTHER INVESTIGATION. That the government have not only refused to undertake that investigation, but have also withheld this information since 2011 is another indication that something is wrong.

      And we also need to question why the government has persistently refused to carry out a basic cumulative impact assessment into the consequences of its policies aimed at disabled people. Basic impact assessments are are provision of our own law – the Equality Act. Despite pressure from many: disability groups and charities, individual campaigners, and MPs, too, we have yet to see this legal obligation honoured.

      We have seen cases reported in the media, constituent’s cases raised in political debate and recorded on the Hansard parliamentary record, where people have died within a short time of being declared fit for work. We also have coroner’s evidence that links the WCA process with deaths. These people clearly weren’t fit for work, either, indicating the assessment process is clearly flawed. I personally know two people who have died within two weeks of being told they were fit for work, who had their benefit stopped, there are many more cases recorded, as I said.

      And even if you dismiss the media reports, coroner’s reports and the Hansard and parliamentary record as “anecdotal” as the government have tried to do, that does not warrant their persistent attempts to stifle debate and their solid refusal to at least investigate this matter. On the basis of the first significant statistical increase in the ESA group.

      I know a little about statistical analysis, my background is in sociology and social psychology, so no, this is not “juvenile” at all.

      And I will decide what is “worthy” of investigation on my own site for myself.


  11. One last important point is that had the government respected the basic human rights of disabled people in the UK, it wouldn’t currently be facing a high level United Nations investigation regarding “grave and systematic” contraventions of those rights. There’s another factor indicating a correlation for you.


    1. Probably around 310 people as an average, as indicated by the IB figures. The rapid and significant increase to 10, 600 in the ESA group over a shorter period of time warrants investigation. Qualitative accounts of the experiences of bereaved families, sick and disabled people going through the WCA and charity research also indicate a need for further investigation, as do at least two Coroner’s reports which link deaths to the Tory “reforms.”

      What you need to ask is this: why has the government simply refused to investigate the matter. One pensioner recently committed suicide, and the government opened an inquiry into charity canvassing. There have been many more recorded deaths and suicides related to government policies aimed at sick and disabled people, yet no investigation has taken place –


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