Tag Archives: statistics

These Statistics Tell Us Fuck All But One Death Was Too Many

first-they-cameIf there’s one thing we can learn from the release of statistics examining the deaths of sickness benefit claimants it’s that most journalists writing about social security haven’t got a fucking clue what they are talking about.  Both The Guardian and The Daily Mail* reported this week that 2,380 people died within two weeks of being found Fit For Work by the DWP when in truth these people could have died anytime up to two years after their assessments.

The reason for this blunder – and that seems the wrong word given the subject matter, negligence might be better – is simply because they misunderstood the DWP’s garbled explanantion of how they collect data for statistical purposes.

Two statistical reports were reluctantly released by the government yesterday and both are equally confusing – and no doubt deliberately so.   The first is a report on the death rates of people on all out of work benefits and the second a response to the long-standing FOI by fellow blogger Mike Sivier asking about the deaths of claimants on Employment Support Allowance (ESA), the main out of work sickness and disability benefit.  Sadly neither of these documents tells us very much about the impact of the despised Work Capability Assessment, the crude benefit eligibility test which was introduced by the last Labour government, not Iain Duncan Smith.

The ESA statistics show the total number of people who have died whilst claiming the benefit, and of those how many had previously been found Fit For Work.  The key questions which are left unanswered are whether those judged ‘Fit For Work’ were more likely to die than the general population, and exactly what is meant by claimants who the report says were found Fit For Work but were also still on ESA at the time of their death.

According to the department, 2,380 people who had previously been found Fit For Work ended their claim for ESA because they had died.  Now this doesn’t seem to make any sense because they shouldn’t have had an ESA claim to end if they had been found Fit For Work.  However, as the DWP allude to in the report, those who appeal a Fit For Work decision may have their ESA claim re-instated whilst awaiting the outcome of that appeal – or at least they would have until Mandatory Reconsiderations were introduced in late 2013 but let’s ignore that because it only muddies the waters even more.

What this suggests is that those 2,380 deaths do not represent the total number of people who have died after being found Fit For Work , but only those who went on to appeal that decision and died before the appeal was heard.  Some people who didn’t appeal will have died as well, which means that the number of people who died after being found Fit For Work may be significantly higher than reported yesterday.  But without a clarification from the DWP on exactly who they are talking about we cannot be sure.

The statistics also report that there were 1,340 deaths amongst people who had completed an appeal against a Fit For Work decision.  The DWP do not tell us what the outcome of these appeals were, but given they were on ESA at the time of their death it seems reasonably certain they were successful.  This means that 1,340 people were found Fit For Work, subsequently appealed, won the appeal, got their benefits back, and then died.

These numbers sound shocking, but they still don’t tell us much.  As Ben Goldacre pointed out yesterday, without knowing the rate of deaths compared to the rest of the population – as in are people found Fit For Work at a benefit assessment more likely to die than a non-claimant – then we don’t really know much at all.  It is worth remembering that a large number of people claiming  ESA are nearing pensionable age.  There are many deaths amongst non-claimants in this age group as well.

Where Goldacre is wrong, despite his snide remarks about confused bloggers, is in assuming that we could establish the rate of deaths amongst those found Fit For Work by tracking them through other benefits they may be claiming.  DWP research shows that over half of those who lose ESA due to a Fit For Work decision disappear from the benefits system completely (pdf).  The DWP simply does not know what happens to them after that, including whether they are alive or not.

There are two interesting facts that can be gleaned from yesterday’s statistics however, one being that people in the Work Related Activity Group are over twice as likely to die as non-claimants.  These are those assessed as fit for some work, or being able to work at some point in the future, but who keep sickness benefits and cannot be forced to take a job.  The government has just announced that this group will soon be abolished with benefits slashed to the same rate as Jobseeker’s Allowance (the dole).  There is now clear statistical evidence that people in this group are significantly more likely to die than the general population.

The other surprising news is that people on Jobseekers Allowance are less likely to die than those not on benefits.  This is a consistent trend that is recorded as far back as 2003.  Care should be taken on how to interpret this, but it surely demands further research.  Sadly with the government, charities, think-tanks and the health establishment all currently obsessed with the flawed notion that work is good for your health, we are unlikely to see any.

Iain Duncan Smith is a fetid piece of shit but he didn’t invent death.  And we shouldn’t attempt to conjure up thousands of deaths to show why current social security policies are causing horrifying suffering.   The massive growth in the use of foodbanks, soaring malnutrition cases in hospitals, rocketing homelessness – these all tell their own story about what is going on in the lives of the poorest.  As do the ever-growing number of coronors reports and anguished stories from relatives about deaths that we know for sure are linked to failures of the benefits system.  There should be no assumption that just because tens of thousands of people have not been killed by Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms then that makes everything okay.  Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, have had their lives turned into a miserable and daily battle for survival and that is an atrocity.  The Work Capability Assessment needs to be brought to an immediate end, one death was far too many.

UPDATE 29/08/15  Both The Guardian and The Daily Mail have added an amendment to these stories, with the Mail seeming to clarify that the Fit For Work deaths were people going through the appeals process.

For the sad list of those we know have died due to failures of the benefits system visit: http://blacktrianglecampaign.org/2014/10/21/uk-welfare-reform-deaths-updated-list-october-21st-2014/

Above pic from here

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Number of Sick And Disabled Claimants Facing Sanctions Triples In Just Six Months

sanction-sabsThe number of sick or disabled people who have had there benefit sanctioned for not taking part in ‘work related activity’ has almost tripled compared to just six months ago the latest figures show.

7.507 claimants on Employment Support Allowance (ESA), had their benefits sanctioned in March 2014, up from 4,698 the previous month and 2,369 In Sepetember 2013.  This has taken the total number of ESA claims sanctioned to over 100,000 since the regime was disgracefully introduced by Labour.

These clamaints are in the Work Related Acivity Group (WRAG) of ESA, meaning they have been judged unable to work at present but may possibly be well enough for employment in the future.  They include people with serious and life-threatening conditions including cancer.  Astonishingly this group are still sent on the Work Programme, where they may face compulsory ‘back to work’ training or even workfare.  Should they fail to attend any activity the private sector providers running the scheme dream up then they will have their benefits sanctioned.

These are not the only sick and disabled claimants who face sanctions.  Inhumane Atos assessments have led to many people with serious health conditions or disabilties being forced to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance.  According to the DWP, since the tougher new sanctions regime was introduced in December 2012, over 150,000 disabled people have had their benefits stopped.  Whilst people on sickness benefits only generally lose a portion of their benefits, those on JSA can lose every penny.  For people with special dietery needs or other conditions, this can prove fatal as the tragic death of David Clapson recently showed.

Appalling many of those sanctioned will have been driven into poverty due to failure to attend workfare with so-called charities and community organisations.  The first names of these organisations accepting workfare placements on the latest scheme, which involves 780 hours of unpaid work, are now starting to leak out.  Lanarkshire Association for Mental Health (@_LAMH_ also on facebook) have been reported to be accepting this form of workfare and have remained silent about their grotesque exploitation since being exposed.  @SumoWaste have protected their tweets on twitter and also have nothig to say about their grubby exploitation after they were named and shamed on the facebook page of Edinburgh Coaltion Against Poverty.  Also recently named as taking part are @DISC_Services, a so-called charity who will be receiving tax payer’s money to arrange workfare placements and who are also on facebook.

The DWP refuse to name the charities taking workfare placements, if you know of one contact Boycott Workfare to have them named and shamed.

Please sign, share and tweet the petition for an inquiry into the benefit sanctions that killed David Clapson: https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/david-cameron-hold-an-inquiry-into-benefit-sanctions-that-killed-my-brother

The latest benefit sanctions figures can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/jobseekers-allowance-and-employment-and-support-allowance-sanctions-decisions-made-to-march-2014

This blog has no sources of funding so here’s a quick reminder that you can help ensure it continues by making a donation.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Number Of Employment Support Allowance Claims On The Rise – Is Iain Duncan Smith Making Us Sick?

IDS-I-dont-care-whos-diedThe total number of claimants claiming out of work sickness or disability benefits rose by 15,000 between March and April provisional DWP statistics report.

2.485 million people were claiming Employment Support Allowance or Incapacity Benefit in April, representing a steady rise of 1.2% since November 2013. This comes despite the horrific Atos regime which has seen hundreds of thousands of claimants being stripped of benefits after being assessed as ‘fit for work’.  The number of people on out of work sickness benefits should be plummeting, and it was until just over a year ago.

It is hardly surprising that people are still becoming ill or disabled despite the magical Atos assessments. The UK did not have significantly more people on out of work sickness or disability benefits than other comparable countries even before the despised Work Capability Assessment began. It is unusual however that the number of people unable to work for health reasons should be rising at a time when unemployment is allegedly falling.

There is growing evidence that Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms are damaging people’s health. Some parts of the UK have reported soaring malnutrition linked to benefit cuts. A report produced by Citizen’s Advice last year told of people being unable to meet special dietary needs due to sanctions or having to beg or go through bins to find food. Homelessness charities have said that sanctions are causing people to lose their homes. And a damning report by the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland claimed that 35% of psychiatrists said at least one of their patients had been admitted to hospital as a consequence of the stress of Atos assessments.

Using hunger and homelessness as a weapon against benefit claimants will not incentivise people to find work, it will demolish lives.  Forcing people with mental health conditions into stressful and demeaning assessments under the threat of destitution will not magically cure them of their condition – in many cases it will make it worse.  Iain Duncan Smith really is making us sick, and with more workfare and sanctions on the way then things are only going to get worse.

The latest ESA figures can be downloaded from: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/dwp-statistical-summaries-2014

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No Matter How You Spin The Figures There’s Still No Fucking Jobs

war-on-the-poorNo matter how much DWP Ministers try to spin the figures there is still a desperate shortage of jobs.

It is simply not known how much of this month’s fall in unemployment is down to zero hours contracts, or how many of the 4.36 million people now working self-employed are dependent on Working Tax Credits and not making any real money.

Although this month shows a welcome drop in the use of workfare, this also distorts the true picture of the labour market. Unpaid workers on Jobcentre schemes are conveniently disappeared from the official tally of the unemployed. Benefit sanctions, which have risen sharply, can also lead people to abandon benefit claims and drop out of the figures – often to disappear into the black market or become dependent on the charity of friends, families and foodbanks. No-one is counting how many people are now living like this.

Whatever the true rate of unemployment one thing is certain. There are currently 2.32 million officially unemployed people and just 569,000 vacancies. Even if all those vacancies are filled by someone unemployed tomorrow, there will still be approaching two million unemployed people.

But this still doesn’t tell the whole story. Even in a time of full employment (stop laughing) there would still be a significant number of vacancies, as people changed jobs, retired, went on maternity leave etc. Ignoring the self-employed, there are around 25 million people in employment. If as few as one in fifty people is currently working out a notice period then that would create half a million vacancies. In other words, there is no room in the system for unemployed people, who must desperately compete with people already in work for a tiny number of vacancies.

For those who are highly skilled, or recently unemployed that might not be so bad. But people who are long term unemployed, have health conditions which limit the work they can do, children to work around or criminal records can face a gloomy future.

And this is why the current attacks on people claiming out of work benefits are beneath contempt. It is a bullshit that people are unemployed because they are lazy. There are not enough jobs to go round – by about 2 million – and this doesn’t include people on sickness and disability benefits or lone parents with young children. Add them and the UK’s job shortage is closer to five million.

No amount of bullying or harassing claimants will change this fact. No amount of workfare, of any form, will create a single job, and common sense suggests it will do the opposite. All benefit sanctions do is demolish people and make them less likely to find work than ever.

It is hard to imagine a more inhuman system than one in which there will never be enough jobs to go around, yet those without them are shamed and attacked, over and over again. It is beyond horrific, like making ten people fight for seven meals and then blaming the people going hungry for the fact that there wasn’t enough food. It is as absurd as it is cruel and it’s time to grow the fuck up and accept the reality of the jobs market in the UK.  Only then can an honest debate take place about what a humane welfare state would look like.

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First Statistics Reveal Work Programme To Be A Shambles

The Government today released performance figures on the flagship Work Programme which reveal that the £5 billion pound scheme is failing miserably with less than 25% of claimants off benefits after 36 weeks on the programme.

The rate of people who would be expected to find jobs without any help at all is believed to be 28%.  And today’s figures don’t even represent job outcomes.  Claimants could be off benefits due to reaching pensionable age, starting full time education, having a child, moving in with a partner or having benefits sanctioned.

In the 90s the minimum job entry rate for similar types of provision aimed at helping long term unemployed people find work was 45%. Previously Chris Grayling has boasted that 36% of people would find work on the Work Programme.

Whilst the Government state that during their time on the scheme 48% of people had some break in their benefit claim, this is little more than meaningless.  Around 100,000 people were sanctioned on the Work Programme last year, meaning benefits were stopped temporarily by the private sector poverty pimps running the scheme due to the claimant not completing mandated activity – such as workfare.  Claims can also be temporarily stopped due to a period of sickness, a change of address or any other change in personal circumstances.

It seems highly likely that this 48%, many of whom were back on benefits by the end of the tracking period, were simply sanctioned.

Further statistics, which will include job entry rates, are to be published in the Autumn.  It is already abundantly clear however that Work Programme isn’t working.  Private sector like fraudsters like A4e are being paid hundreds of millions of pounds to do little more than bully, harass and sanction benefit claimant, something the DWP were already quite adept at doing for far less money.

The figures do not tell us which benefits those attending the programme were claiming.  With sick and disabled people now forced onto the Work Programme under threat of sanctions (administered by so called charities), it is unclear whether anyone on sickness benefits has actually got a job through the scheme.

George Osborne has stated he wants to cut £10 billion further from the welfare system despite the savage cuts that in many cases are still to take effect.  Half of that figure could be saved by scrapping the Work Programme which is serving little function other than lining the pockets of the poverty pimps running the scheme with tax payers cash.

The statistics can be viewed at: http://statistics.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd1/adhoc_analysis/2012/wp_early_entrants.pdf

Join in the National Week of Action Against Workfare – tell the charities involved in workfare what you think: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?p=1298