Update: The number of signatories has now passed 110,000 (15 June 2015)
More than 60,000 people have signed a petition calling on the government to publish statistics into the number of benefit claimants who have died after benefits were removed.
The number of signatories is growing fast and could force the government to come clean about the impact of welfare reforms on vulnerable people.
A number of attempts by journalists and campaigners, using the Freedom of Information Act, to force the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to publish the statistics have been rebuffed.
The government argues that drawing a direct link between the deaths of seriously ill people and the removal of benefits would be irresponsible.
Welfare Weekly reported last month that the DWP had been ordered by the Information Commissioner to disclose details into deaths related to welfare reforms, following a complaint by political blogger Mike Sivier. It is our understanding that this is currently being appealed by the DWP.
The petition, on the change.org website, claims that this appeal is a direct attempt by the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith to block publication of benefit-related death statistics.
Maggie Zolobajluk, who started the petition, calls on “the Courts and Tribunal Service to dismiss this appeal and so prevent any further delay by the DWP in publishing these figures”.
It continues: “For years there have been reports of people committing suicide or dying from ill-health soon after their benefits are stopped.
“As a partner of someone with a disability I have been through two benefit appeals and have also been a benefit tribunal representation – so I know from personal experience how stressful the system can be and the impact they have on families.
“I believe the public needs to know the full impact of benefit changes.
“In 2012 the Department of Work and Pensions published statistics which showed 10,600 people who had been receiving benefits died between January and November 2011. These figures caused an outcry, although many disabled campaigners disagreed over what the figures actually showed. Ministers then blocked publication of any updated figures.
“Now, thanks to freelance journalist and carer, Mike Sivier, the Information Commissioner’s Office has admitted there is no reason not to publish them. This appeal is the last hurdle to overcome to get these figures out in the public.”