DWP figures show thousands have died after being found ‘fit-to-work’

1 September 2015

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has released statistics which show that, between December 2011 and February 2014, 2,380 people died after their Work Capability Assessment (WCA) had found them fit for work.

In response to the figures, which have been released by the Information Commissioner’s Office in response to freedom for information requests, some critics have called for an urgent rethink of the system to classify welfare recipients as work-ready. However, the DWP has stated that ‘no causal link’ can be concluded from the latest figures as no information is held on the cause of deaths.

The mortality data is being treated with cautious scepticism by campaigners due to a lack of clarity about the circumstances of deaths in addition to the absence of essential background data needed in order to establish the mortality rates, as explained by Ben Goldacre.

Whilst caution remains about the implications of the mortality figures, campaigners welcome that they have brought much needed focus on the government’s fit-for-work assessments which have been plagued by a variety of controversies in recent years. Earlier this June, the British Psychological Society stated that there was a “significant body of evidence that the WCA is failing to assess people’s fitness for work accurately and appropriately”.

Tom Pollard, policy and campaigns manager of Mind reflected this opinion to the Guardian, saying that despite concerns: “we do have serious concerns about the benefit system… we desperately need to see an overhaul of the system… with less focus on pressuring people into work and stopping their benefits”.