News that the Conservative government in Britain have delayed the publication of deaths caused by their cuts to welfare appear to be a slap in the face to the 220,000 people who signed a petition insisting that the Department For Work and Pensions (DWP) release the numbers in full under the Freedom Of Information Act (FOI) initiated by campaigner Mike Sivier through his blog.
The delays are opening the government up to the claim made by their critics that the numbers will be fudged. Although actual death figures were published in 2012, the DWP, in a ten page letter, have appealed against the release this time round, insisting that the new ‘standardised’ methodology represents a more accurate picture.
The fact that the Information Commissioner watchdog ruled the actual numbers figure should be made public, would suggest that DWP want to hide behind the standardised version. It’s the former not the latter figure that is pertinent to Mr Sivier’s FOI request:
[The standardised version] is not what I requested. It is not what anybody wants. In this context, is it any wonder that so many people are signing the petition?. This claim about ‘high standards’ is motivated by another claim, that the actual number of deaths could be ‘misinterpreted’ if it comes into the public domain. But the Freedom of Information Act is motive-blind. Without being able to hide behind any specific exemption, such as the plan to publish the number of deaths later (allowed by section 22 of the Act), the law says only two requirements must be satisfied: Does the DWP have the information? Yes it does. And can the DWP publish it within the legal expenditure limits? Yes it can”.
By shifting the focus away from the actual figures (the basis of Mr Sivier’s FOI request), the DWP is seeking to avoid scrutiny and the government are clearly trying to hide the devastating impacts of their benefit regime.
The last figures that were released by the DWP in 2012, showed that 1,300 ESA claimants died within six weeks of being placed in a ‘work-related activity’ group between January and November 2011.
A string of families have come forward to say their relatives died after being found fit for work.
Mark Wood starved to death in David Cameron’s constituency four months after his benefits were cut – weighing just 5st 8lbs when he was found.:
Ex-nurse Jacqueline Harris, 53, took her own life after she was ruled fit for work despite having slipped disks in her back and severe pain.
And mum-of-three Elenore Tatton, 39, died of a long-standing brain tumour just weeks after she too was ruled fit for work.