Friday, 26 October 2012
Welfare Reform Deaths. STATS QUESTIONED
WOOH people mail me a lot, THIS PERSON asked me to blog this ..... There is no question that people are dying as a result of the disability benefit welfare reforms (http://www.urban75.net/forums/threads/list-of-those-for-whom-welfare-reform-and-cuts-were-too-much-to-bear.295951/) run by ATOS. Working out how many people this is is a tricky subject and there are two numbers currently floating around - 73 per week (http://statistics.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd1/adhoc_analysis/2012/incap_decd_recips_0712.pdf) and 32 per week (http://blogs.mirror.co.uk/investigations/2012/04/32-die-a-week-after-failing-in.html). The 73/week figure is the number of deaths occuring amongst those who are on Employment Support Allowance (ESA), whilst the 32/week figure relates only to those who are in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) of ESA. Trying to work out how many of these deaths were hastened or occured because of a wrong decision by ATOS and therefore as a result of the welfare reforms is tricky. What we are interested in is how many people who were put in the WRAG died earlier than they would have done if they had been in the support group. We are also interested in anyone completely removed from ESA who should have remained on disability benefits but no tracking is done of this group at all as far as I know. the 73/week figure includes people in the support group - if we say that those in the support group are recieving the support they should, then any deaths in this group cannot be down to welfare reforms, and so this number will be an overestimate. The 32/week figure is better, because it excludes those who are getting the support they should have. It may be an over or underestimate, because of course some of these people would have died if they were in the support group. At the same time, it doesn't include people pushed onto JSA and the extra pressures involved with that benefit. It is likely that the group of people kicked off ESA wrongly will experience the highest increase in death rates. Now for me it is impossible to get an accurate figure, since you are supposing an alternative reality and it is not possible to actually say in individual case how much longer someone would have lived if they'd been in the support group not the WRAG. But we can look for an honest figure, though it's not without its complications. In essence what you need to do is a case-control study where you look at people in the WRAG and pair them off with people in the support group who have the same/similar disabilities or illnesses and demographic background. It may be easier to do this by comparing with a different country. Either way, getting good case-controls would be a challenge to say the least. Comparing the death rate simply with the general population would give a base figure, but no way to take into account an expected increase in death rate amongst people with pre-existing conditions. Personally, I use the 32/week figure and specific examples from Calums List (http://calumslist.org/), but knowing with any accuracy or honesty just what the numbers are is impossble. The core fact though is that people are dying as a result of the welfare reforms, and that a single death is too high a price to pay.