To publish or not to publish data (re The petition 336,00 people signed)

More than 336,000 people have signed a petition calling on the Government to publish data on the number of people on incapacity benefit and ESA who have died since November 2011. This petition was started followed a ruling by the Information Commissioner on 30 April compelling the Government to publish these data in 35 days, including the number of those who died following being found fit for work.

Debbie Abrahams Labour, Oldham East & Saddleworth

When the Government  publish redacted information on the circumstances of the deaths of claimants who died while sanctioned, and what changes the DWP instigated in the light of reviews of these deaths. It is notable that, since the Government’s new sanctions regime, the rate of sanctioning of people on Incapacity Benefit and ESA has doubled. Will the Minister also confirm whether the significant surge in suicide rates for both men and women since 2010—but particularly for working-age men—is being is being analysed by the DWP?

First Iain Duncan Smith said they could not publish these figures and accused us of scaremongering. Then David Cameron said that they would be published. But this was swiftly followed by the Government saying that they were appealing against the Information Commissioner’s ruling that they should be publish, saying that publishing this data would lead to “probable misinterpretations” and “was too emotive…and wasn’t in the public interest”.

As a former public health academic, I am more than aware of the strict criteria for establishing causality, but there are no grounds for not publishing numbers of actual deaths as well as the Government-proposed standardised mortality ratios, including those who died within six weeks of being found fit for work. Will the Minister now confirm when these data will be published?

My final comments relate to next week’s Budget. There is much concern that the Government may once again target disabled people. Will the Minister pledge today that there will be no further erosion of support for disabled people, including taxation of universal disability benefit or restricting the Motability scheme, which enables over 56,000 to keep their job? He did not answer the questions I asked him during our previous exchange on the PIP process, so I should be grateful for a yes or no answer today.

Being disabled is not a lifestyle choice. I am proud of the principles underpinning our model of social welfare, where any one of us is afforded protection should we fall ill or become disabled, but it is at risk from this Government. I urge the Government not to take any further steps along their regressive path.

You can click on the link below to see a conversation between Debbie Abrahams & other MP’s. Nothing from IDS or the PM.

The Budget is 8th July


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