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 ( 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 ( and 32 per week ( 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 (, 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.


  1. There's a massive difficulty getting to the bottom of government stats for ESA. Firstly because they realease new claims seperately to those which include people being migrated from incapacity benefit to ESA, and at present these stats are suspended. You'd expect the migratory figures to include a greater proportion of long-term and degenerative conditions. Secondly, do we know how many people are actually in the WRAG or support group at any given time? I only ever see percentages quoted which makes comparing these figures to the mortality rate in the general popualtion really tricky.

    It's scandalous that there is no record kept of what happens to those people who have been found fit to work and don't appear to have claimed JSA, other benefits or found work. They just disappear and I suspect it's likely these people are the ones who are genuinely too sick to work and too sick to cope with the appeals process. In the general population almost half of all deaths in the working age group under 65 are attributed to mental health, and in the under 35s it's the biggest killer of all. Yet we know that the work capability assessment is difficult for people with mental health problems to pass and that depression does not get you into the support group.

    It's clear that people are too sick to do work related activities and the fact that they are dying of their conditions whilst in the WRAG and expected to get better within 12 months proves that this process is unfit for purpose.

    Thanks for clearing up the difference in the 32 and 73 per week figures. If just one person has commited suicide as a result of the stress related to a process of simply getting people the benefit they're entitled to it's one too many. Shocking then, that hundreds if not thousands have died as a direct result. Where's the outrage?

  2. How about using a control group of people with the same background and impairment from, say, 10 years ago? Obviously not ideal, but maybe worth considering...

  3. The other point to make (I know not the focus of your post here, but still important), is that very few people deemed capable of Work Related Activities should be dying at all. Even if their being wrongly assessed didn't actually hasten their deaths, their deaths are pretty conclusive proof that they were assessed wrongly and the system is failing horribly.

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