Government Must Come Clean About Benefit-Related Deaths, Says Green Party

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The Government must come clean about the number of benefit claimants who have died after being found ‘fit for work’, a Green Party spokesperson says.

Benefit claimants found ‘fit for work’ following a medical assessment may be required to commence work-related activities, such as applying for jobs or taking part in work experience schemes, or run the risk of their benefit payments being sanctioned (reduced or stopped).

Some of those people may have been wrongly found ‘fit for work’ and could be incapable of working, due to illness or disability.

Claimants can ask for a ‘fit for work’ decision to be reviewed, but the stress and complexity of the appeals process can push extremely vulnerable people over the edge. This together with the ever-existing threat of benefit sanctions and resulting poverty.

Prior to the general election, Iain Duncan Smith was challenged to reveal how many benefit-related suicides his department had investigated (reviewed).

The Work and Pensions Secretary denied that any reviews had taken place. But an investigation by Disability News Service later found that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had investigated 60 benefit-related deaths, with 40 of these being suicides.

Numerous attempts by welfare campaigners and others to force the DWP to publish these reviews, through the Freedom of Information Act, have been rebuffed.

A petition calling for the number of those who have died within six weeks of being certified ‘fit for work’ to be published, has now passed 150,000 signatures.

Green Party Work and Pensions spokesperson Jonathan Bartley said: “Iain Duncan Smith should come clean about the full impact of benefit changes. He must end this cover up.

“The public need to know exactly how many have died after being certified ‘fit for work’ as part of his reforms. The government’s reluctance to tell the truth suggests it has something serious to hide.

“With austerity now in overdrive and a race to the bottom on welfare underway, the full picture is more important than ever.

“We now know that £15bn of cuts are to come in the welfare budget – more than was ever admitted by the government before the General Election. This will mean even greater hardship for the very people who need support the most.

“The Government must publish a cumulative impact assessment before any more cuts are made.”

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