Official statistics revealing the number of benefit claimants who have died after having their benefits removed may not be published for months, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has admitted.
Tory minister Priti Patel says the government may not release the figures until “autumn”, flouting a court ruling to publish the damning statistics in Spring of this year.
Government figures published in 2012 revealed how 10,600 vulnerable sick and disabled people tragically lost their lives between January and November 2011, after being found ‘fit for work’.
Journalists and welfare rights campaigners have made numerous Freedom of Information requests in an attempt to pressurise the DWP into publishing the data, the Independent reports.
The DWP has routinely ignored these requests and is currently appealing a decision by the Information Commissioner, who has ordered to department to make the data public.
Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith MP, has told parliament that the DWP does not collect the figures. This is despite of civil servants admitting that the data is collected.
Priti Patel told the House of Commons: “The Government intends to publish mortality statistics but before doing so they need to meet the high standards expected of official statistics. Once we have completed that important work we will publish them.
She added: “The position on data publication hasn’t changed and the data will be published. It will be published very soon – no later than the autumn.”
Labour’s shadow welfare minister Kate Green responded: “The shenanigans in the DWP around the release of these statistics are concerning and puzzling if the department has nothing to hide.”
A petition demanding the government to publish the statistics has been signed by more than 240,000 people.
The government has also refused to publish reviews into the deaths of dozens of benefit claimants.