The assessment determines whether new claimants can qualify, after an initial 'assessment phase', for one of the two main payment groups of Employment & Support Allowance; either in the Work Related Activity Group or the Support Group. Claimants who are already in receipt of the older incapacity benefit range of benefits are subjected to exactly the same assessment (subject to a 'conversion' gateway) process in order to see if their existing award can be converted to Employment & Support Allowance, introduced in October 2008 with the intention of helping more people in to work.
The last time the DWP produced statistics on the number of claimants who died whilst on (all) incapacity benefits was in their "Incapacity Benefits: Deaths of recipients" statistical release of July 2012. Since then disability campaigners, including Mike Sivier, have tirelessly lobbied government to produce further and more up to date figures which could have shed more light on the plight of people like 44 year old Mark Wood who sadly died (in August 2013) 4 months after being found 'fit for work' as a result of what is termed a 'work capability assessment'. Mr Wood was profoundly medically unwell and had serious mental health issues, weighing just 5 stone 8 pounds at the time of his death. Coroner Darren Salter said Mr Wood's death was probably “caused or contributed to by Wood being markedly underweight and malnourished”, but added it was not possible to establish the cause of death conclusively.
Mark Wood may not have been been included in the DWP's most recent statistics relating to claimants found 'fit for work'; such is the lack of clarity and extremely poor presentation of the figures. However, there is no lack of clarity of the opinion of Mr Wood's doctor, Doctor Nicholas Ward, who very clearly opined that his patient was "extremely unwell and absolutely unfit for any work whatsoever”, the doctor also said Mr Wood's body mass index "was incompatible with life".
Mr Wood's inclusion in the figures would depend on whether the DWP has linked his death with the closure of his claim because of being found 'fit for work'. If Mr Wood had gone on to claim another benefit, such as Jobseeker's Allowance or perhaps had not claimed any benefit at all, it is quite possible that he may not have been caught by the DWP figures at all. There is no mention of Mr Wood appealing against the fit for work decision, only the DWP would be able to clarify this.
The DWP clarified in their July 2012 DWP release:
"Data on the number of ESA claimants that have died following a fit for work decision is not available, as the Department does not hold information on a death if the person has already left benefit."
There is no explanation provided in the most recent statistical release to show whether the DWP has changed their data collation procedure for those leaving benefit and dying some time afterwards (although the separate mortality statistics say data is available where death occurs within six months of the close of a claim). It is therefore quite possible that if Mr Wood was not on Employment & Support Allowance at the time of his death (which followed a fit for work decision four months beforehand) he would not have appeared in the latest DWP statistics.
Mark Wood -died 'fit for work'
Mr Wood is by no means the only person to have died in circumstances which can in some way be associated with a finding by government appointed assessors or DWP officials who have found them fit for work prior to their death. A comprehensive list of deaths was compiled with 80 Suicide stories by the disability Blacktriangle campaign group who linked them directly to welfare cuts . Further harrowing accounts were diligently compiled by the the Spartacus Network in conjunction with the Centre of Welfare Reform. This is evidence which, although to some degree circumstantial, is highlighting a profound problem. Each one of these stories is a tragedy and each one deserves proper consideration. Iain Duncan Smith's welfare reforms come second to the issue here; the deaths of thousands of benefit claimant deemed fit for work for reasons unknown - obfuscation is no answer.
There's a whole army on social media out to get some truth from the DWP on this and to out the harmful regime which the DWP is deploying with thousands of sick and disabled people paying the price. An excellent source of updated information can always be found on John Pring's Disability News website; often quoted in the media for commentary on how disabled people are being affected by the government reforms, here's the latest DNS take on the DWP mortality figures.
Yet the process of obtaining data relating to the deaths of sick benefit claimants has been far from open with Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Works & Pensions, obfuscating their release at every step of the way. The Daily Mirror asked, on behalf of thousands demanding the release of the figures; "what has he got to hide?"
It is now becoming all too clear Iain Duncan Smith may have a great deal to hide
It is beyond contemptible that the Tories arguably use the emotive issue of deaths to suit their political agenda, yet Iain Duncan Smith is now blatantly ignoring the extremely serious nature of the probing question marks hanging over his department. It is deplorable that these inadequate statistics were released with so little clarity. No attempt whatsoever was made to offer those affected, the dead and the bereaved, a single word of condolence. There has been no reassurance that an enquiry would be triggered in the light of information which has come to light.
In between December 2011 and February 2014, the DWP statistics tells us that 81,140 people died having recently claimed an incapacity benefit (which includes Incapacity Benefit, Incapacity Credits for Income Support, Severe Disablement Allowance and - from October 2008 - Employment & Support Allowance).
The figure is arrived at by combining the number of claimants who died coming off incapacity benefits/Severe Disablement Allowance (30,560) (2% of the overall off-flow) along with the numbers coming off Employment & Support Allowance (50,580); (4% of the overall off flow); both measured between December 2011 and February 2014.
In the previous release of July 2012, the DWP expressed the overall death figure as a percentage of the numbers off - flowing from both benefits for the years 2008/09, 2009/10 and 2010/11. In each year the proportion of deaths measured as a percentage of the 'off flow' number was cited as 6%.
In the most recent release, the DWP have instead resorted to a comparison of the death rates with 'Age-Standardised Mortality Rates' (ASMR), these are relevant to what is termed the 'incapacity benefit population'. The figures used by the DWP can be downloaded here.
An important aspect to the death figures is when the DWP become aware of the death of a benefit claimant. Under the Social Security (Notification of Deaths) Regulations 2012 and section 125 of Social Security Administration Act 1992 date of death is provided to the Department for all registered deaths. The reason is obvious; the claimant is unable to do so themselves because they have died. There is, under the law, a requirement to notify a date of death of a deceased person which is generally done by the personal representative or next of kin, in turn this information is relayed back to the DWP. It therefore follows that the DWP will close a deceased person's claim at some time after the deceased has passed away. There may be instances where a claim includes a partner and that my not necessarily involve the closing of the whole claim, it may necessitate removing the deceased person from the claim (the DWP have failed to clarify whether this is likely to be a factor which affects any of their closed claim figures).
This is just one of many points which the DWP have, by virtue of their far from transparent report, failed to provide any clarification over. Although I agree with much of what Ben Goldacre says over people 'pretending' to see death rates which didn't exist, I cannot agree that the DWP has 'played a blinder' in answering the 'wrong questions' posed by those who have made significant and admirable attempts to prise information from the DWP.
That we are even talking about playing games when it comes to crucially important and highly sensitive data about the deaths of sickness benefits claimants is in itself appalling, it typifies the disgraceful contempt which the DWP, led by Iain Duncan Smith, has for those who for whatever reason have to rely on the State. Endless stories of deaths related to those who claim benefits regularly appear in the media, they need to be taken seriously and require action by those in authority. The DWP knew that by and large it was dealing with people who will not be versed in the finer points of statistics; what matters most here is getting to the bottom of what's going on within the Department of Work and Pensions. Prospective Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has said the 'fit for work' tests are causing suicides and added to calls for Duncan Smith's resignation.
There is an absolute moral requirement upon the DWP to understand the need for a proper response dealing with the very valid concerns raised by people over thousands of sickness benefit claimants being declared unfit to work by their doctors, then being found fit for work by healthcare professionals and in up to a,1340 cases by social security tribunals, only for the same claimant to die sometime after these deeply questionable determinations are made. No amount of reassurance is provided by the DWP telling us that overall Age Standardised Mortality Rate figures for the 'incapacity benefit population' have seemingly reduced as plotted in the following chart:
The previous DWP incapacity benefit statistics provided an off flow to death percentage of 6% for 2008/2008 -2009/2010 - 2010/2011. Had the DWP provided them in their latest release they would again have shown 6%.
Why resort to a different measure? What we are not seeing in the 'ASMR' population figures is an explosion in the number of reclaims for Employment & Support Allowance. the ASMR figures specifically exclude all re-clams where the same claimant has claimed the same benefit more than once. It's a feature of the chaotic regime surrounding Employment & Support Allowance that re-claims and appeals have been cited as causative of a 'revolving door effect', my observation would be that the removal of 'repeat' claimant effectively removes a large number of incapacitated claimants from the equation, my question would be where do those removed end up? - are they figuring elsewhere I ask myself?
What could have made this all so much clearer, if only the DWP had taken the issue seriously and treated it with the respect it deserves.
This Code is consistent with the United Nations Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics and the European Statistics Code of Practice (with which all producers of European Statistics are expected to comply).
It is also consistent with the Civil Service core values of integrity, honesty, objectivity and impartiality. In relation to statistical work, these are interpreted as follows.
•Integrity – putting the public interest above organisational, political or personal interests. •Honesty – being truthful and open about the statistics and their interpretation. •Objectivity – using scientific methods to collect statistics and basing statistical advice on rigorous analysis of the evidence. •Impartiality – acting solely according to the merits of the statistical evidence, serving equally well all aspects of the public interest. The National Statistician will publish a related code of conduct for officials working within the Government Statistical Service.
The government's latest release was clearly one which was within the wider context of the public interest but failed spectacularly in every respect, there was no clarity, nor was there openness, it was a classic example of obfuscation (the act or an instance of making something obscure, dark, or difficult to understand). The public have a right to know why we have up to 4010 people being declared fit for work against the medical opinion of their own qualified doctor, what makes this even worse is that we have up to 1,340 people who had the decision confirmed by judicial process at a tribunal and then died (this may not be the case with any appeals which were dealt with posthumously) ; this clearly illustrates something to be very wrong with the whole wretched system.
It should come as no surprise that so many have tried to come up with some meaningful variations on the figures. What we need to do now is go through the whole wretched report, examine it line by line, and come up with a list of the right questions needed of the government. The government's response is wholly inadequate, they should not be allowed to get away with producing the very limited response they have so far provided. The DWP are, for instance, all too aware that the deaths relating to benefits include those who may have died as a result of sanctioning, they need to be asked why.
Of those found fit for work after a Work Capability Assessment, some may have ended up on Jobseeker's Allowance or worse still on no benefit at all, some may have ended up in work in work to the complete detriment of their health (work being the acid test of whether people really are 'fit for work'). All of these scenarios beg further and much more probing questions, the government, as they did in Stafford, need to respond with a serious list of answers.
This opening article will be followed by a serious of posts with analysis and suggestion as to the further questions required. In doing so, I will take a look at the complexities of the benefit system and explain how these figures are more than muddled by factors such as the conversion of claimants from older incapacity benefits to awards of Employment & Support Allowance, the effect of reclaims and appeals and the many shortcomings in the DWP's response to this highly sensitive and emotionally charged request for information. I think what's been missing from the various attempts at unpicking this has been a fundamental need to understand how very complex the benefit system is and why it makes asking precisely the right questions so inherently difficult.
Importantly, the DWP acknowledge (In their supporting notes) that whilst no causal link can be established between the mortality figures provided and the numbers of deaths recorded for deceased incapacitated claimants, "a number of other possible factors may contribute to an increased/decreased mortality rate such as income, housing and education."
It is very much the contention of campaigners that the wrongful reduction or dis-allowance of an incapacity benefit may bring about circumstances where the deceased person may have had their income adversely affected, where housing may have been in jeopardy and where the most vulnerable in society are most likely to include some who are at an educational disadvantage affecting their ability to cope.
* "Up to 4010 sick claimants could have been declared 'fit for work' prior to their death". The definition I've used will be explained in the following posts.
Post by nickd (Mylegal) on Sept 3, 2015 17:57:11 GMT
(1) The manner in which the data was communicated.
It is astonishing, when given the background and highly emotive nature of the information, that the DWP has chosen to release this data with no expression whatsoever of compassion for the individuals who may be affected by it. There has been, for whatever reason, a recorded death for 81,140 people who had claimed incapacity benefits (1) and who had died between December 2011 and February 2014. Each death will, for the family and bereaved, represent a personal tragedy, yet the DWP chose not to provide any note of sympathy for any of its deceased customers.
The matter of fact way in which the data was released will have done nothing to address the deep concerns that relatives may continue to have over the death of their loved ones. Equally, despite government's recognition of the potential for publication of this information to lead to scaremongering, the DWP failed to provide any reassurances to thousands of claimants anxiously awaiting assessments that they have nothing to fear.
Given that the data was highly likely to have been read by many people unversed in DWP statistics, the DWP made no attempt to communicate highly complex information in such a way that it could have been more easily understood. The DWP should do far more to make sure their data is transparent by ensuring it is explained in such a way that people of differing backgrounds stand a realistic chance of comprehending it.
(1) The term 'incapacity benefits' includes those in receipt of contributory based Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance, Incapacity Credits claimed on the grounds of incapacity for work (where the claimant has insufficient national insurance contributions and may also qualify for Income Support), and from October 2008, Employment & Support Allowance claimants are included under the generic 'incapacity benefit' description.
Post by nickd (Mylegal) on Sept 3, 2015 21:50:51 GMT
(2) Headline figures
What's the true headline figure?
The tabloids and social media have published a wide variety of permutations on the the recent 'deaths amongst incapacity benefit claimants statistics' published last week.
The key headline figure has ranged from 2,380 to in excess of 4,000. The relevance of this is that these are the figures which relate to a claimant dying between December 2011 and February who has also been found fit for work during their previously open claim.
These are the figures which the majority of people are interested in, it is where the public interest factor seems uppermost in people's minds.
Which of these figures is correct?
In truth, the answer is we don't know. The DWP statistical release makes us none the wiser.
However, if we stick with the question asked as relayed in the FOI response from the DWP, we can see how it measures up. As a useful indicator from someone who has a great deal of experience, given her position on the DWP select committee, Debbie Abrahams MP, after taking a look at the figures, put the figure at 4010.
Looking at the question as posed at 'information request 2', the DWP seek to answer very specific questions
The answer given to the first (opening) part of the question 'The number of IB and ESA claimants who have died since Nov 2011. Please break that figure down into the following categories" is provided in table 2.1 as follows:
So, next comes answers (a) (b) (c) (d) and (e). Note that these are supplied as 'categories' of table 2.1.
The answers to questions(a) to (e) are distributed across tables 2.2 to table 2.6.
Table 2.2 is in answer to questions (a) those in the assessment phase (c) those in the Work-Related Activity Group and (d) those in the Support Group, all 3 only apply to Employment & Support Allowance. This is the overall numbers of deaths of Employment & Support Allowance claimants who have died between December 2011 and February 2014.
Tables 2.3, 2.4, 2.5 and 2.6 are in answer to questions (b) those that were found fit for work and (e) those that had an appeal completed after a fit for work decision. These apply to both ESA and IB/SDA cases which have been assessed for Employment & Support Allowance
Table 2.3 is the one many people have cited as the overall total for those found fit for work and who have died.
Table 2.4 has been excluded by many because it relates to IB/SDA. This is incorrect, it should be included as it also relates to testing for Employment & Support Allowance - this being the subject nature of the (b) fit for work question.
Similarly table 2.5should be included because it is in answer to question (e) those who have had an appeal completed after a fit for work decision. This relates to Employment & Support Allowance.
Table 2.6should be included because it is in answer to question (e) those who have had an appeal completed after a fit for work decision. This relates to IB/ESA but also to Employment & Support Allowance assessment. It should be noted that the DWP has erroneously referred to the 20 IB/SDA claimants as an ESA off-flow whereas the first part of the answer refers to an IB/SDA off-flow (a contradiction in terms). Claimants in this cohort would only be an ESA off flow if, after conversion testing, they had appealed a fit for work finding and entered on to ESA in the Assessment Phase. This would infer all 20 claimants lost their appeals as otherwise they would not have off-flowed from ESA after their completed appeal.
In the foot notes on page 9 the DWP clarify 6. "The figures in tables 2.3 and 2.5 are subsets of those in table 2.2."
This implies that the figures at 2.3 (2,380) and 2.5 (1,340) are subsets of table 2.2 (50,580) the overall ESA off flow total.
If they are subsets, readers are entitled to draw a conclusion that the figures are indeed separate and should therefore be read separately. The DWP does not state that any of the tables 2.4, 2.5, or 2.6 are a subset of table 2.3 (setting aside the confusion they have created over the inclusion of the IB/SDA cases.
In the next section, I will deal with the definitions relating to completed appeals and irrelevance of statements over claimants who have been found 'fit for work with 6 weeks of their death'.
I therefore think it a perfectly valid statement to say 'Up to 4,010 sick claimants could have been declared 'fit for work' prior to their death'. the DWP were specifically asked to break down the figures in to categories from the bigger total and that is what we are perfectly entitled to conclude they have done.
The DWP were asked to 'break down' the overall numbers in to 'categories', that can quite properly be taken to read they are separate stand alone categorised answers.
hum dwp through rtu ids hasnt been truthfull so how can you rely on these figures has if the whole truth comes out the public would they believe them anyway but dwp tell the truth if pigs could fly but even these figures surpasses that of action t4 by the summer of 41 might open some eyes has rtu ids was over there perhaps getting some ideas jeff3
The article was subsequently updated on the 28th August to include this amendment:
"A spokesman for the Department of Works and Pensions asks us to make clear that some of the claimants who died would have been going through the appeals process and would have still been receiving benefits. It is therefore impossible to make any link in these statistics between someone dying and their being found fit for work."
The DWP therefore clearly had read the article. They did not (seemingly) seek to amend a further statement within the article which says
"But critics demanded an inquiry as it emerged that, over a period of two years, 2,380 people died within 14 days of being taken off Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) because they were declared 'fit to work' by a controversial assessment process."
Other newspapers got it equally wrong.
The DWP clarify on page 5 of their release that the answers based on information request 2 are based on the following criteria:
"The information requested for the number of IB/SDA and ESA claimants who have died is shown in table 2.1. Please note that these figures show those whose benefit claim ended as a result of their death."
This is therefore the criteria related to the 81,140 claimants who died between December 2011 and February 2014, 50,580 being Employment & Support Allowance claimants and 30,560 being Incapacity Benefit/Severe Disablement Allowance claimants (as defined in the second post).
The reason for the closure of the claim is that the claimant has died, nothing else, nothing more - this applies to all 81,140 claimants.
Any references to the claim being closed due to a fit for work decision are not the subject nature. None the less there are of course many claims that would be closed due to a fit for work decision being given, but the DWP is specific over the reason applying to all 81,140 claimants is their "claim ended as a result of their death".
The answers to the question (as defined in the previous post) all stem from table 2.1 and are broken down as requested in to categories asked of the question at (a) (b) (c) (d) and (e). All answers are only related to claims which ended as a result of death.
For reasons which I covered in my opening post, the DWP do not always know the date of the death. They are reliant on it being reported to them in a number of ways, quite obviously the claimant cannot themselves end the claim as they are deceased.
Any references to the claim end date are defined by the DWP as follows:
"Date of death: The WPLS records all claimants and uses information from a series of regular scans from the benefit payment systems, fortnightly for ESA and six-weekly for IB/SDA. The claim end date is sometimes missing and has to be estimated as a date between the scans and to account for this we have identified those whose date of death is up to 14 days after the estimated claim end date for ESA and up to 42 days for IB/SDA."
This statement in itself does nothing to help people reach a clear understanding.
The DWP are saying that where the 'claim end' date is sometimes missing, an assumed date has to be estimated working from the date of death. In ESA cases, the claim end date, is assumed to be up to 14 days (two weeks) after the death and in IB/SDA cases it is 42 days (6 weeks).
An off-flow is defined as being the end of a claim for a particular DWP benefit. The claim end date is sometimes missing on the DWP systems, and has to be imputed. This is done for cases which disappear between the regular snapshots of the benefit payment systems. The imputed end dates are later corrected where necessary to remove incompatible benefit combinations and to bring them in line with any information on date of death."
The following chart provides some insight in to the numbers of flows which the DWP deals with in a quarter (in this case in 2007) across a range of benefits:
In one quarter the DWP deals with significant numbers. The DWP WPLS benefits data is compiled by linking together scan information supplied based on the caseload of live cases at a number of single points in time. The gap between the point-in-time scans varies by benefit from two to six weeks and if a claimant flows on and off benefit between the two data points then they will not be recorded in the statistics for caseloads or flows. The benefit that is most affected by this issue is Incapacity Benefit (including Severe Disablement Allowance), as scans in respect of Incapacity Benefit are received only every six weeks. Comparing the 100% flows data with a 5% sample of the IB Terminations dataset suggests that the new flows data undercounts about 8% of short duration on flows to IBSDA and 7% of short duration off flows from the benefit, although this varies by quarter.
In ESA cases the scan frequency is every 14 days.
The two and six weeks reference to the end claims is therefore solely related to frequency of scanning.
The DWP scans the different claims, notes where a death is recorded and where an end date is missing it is estimated as per the guidance. The reason for the end of the claim remains (in so far as these figures are concerned) only related to the death of the claimant, the status on the claim (as per what the DWP say) is that the existing recorded decision is one where the claimant was found fit for work.
What the DWP do not say is when the fit for work decision was made. The DWP scan is only picking up ESA and IB/SDA cases where a claimant dies and the claim is closed as a result of the death, they then relate this to cases where the status on the claim is that the claimant was recorded as being found fit for work.
There is therefore no correlation between the fit for work decision being made within 2 weeks or 6 weeks of the claimant's death.
In the next post, I'll take a look at a number of possibilities related to the timing of the fit for work decision and the death of the claimant.
Post by nickd (Mylegal) on Sept 5, 2015 20:58:45 GMT
(4) Cutting through the headlines
In this section, I will attempt to cut through some of the many media articles, both mainstream and local, and concentrate on some real life stories (from which we can at least ascertain some basic facts) and then work out where they may have appeared in the latest DWP statistics on incapacity related deaths.
Sick nurse killed herself after disability benefits were cut and she was ruled 'fit to work'
On the 26th November 2013 the Daily Mirror ran the story of 53 year old Jacqueline Harris. On November the 2nd Jacqueline 'died from a suspected overdose - 13 days before her second appeal was due to be heard'. You can read her story here.
Where would Jacqueline figure in the DWP statistics?
What the article says is Jacqueline had been found fit for work by a Tribunal in January of what can be presumed to be 2013. It is possible that her first appeal may have been against an Incapacity Benefit/Severe Disablement Allowance for Employment & Support Allowance conversion assessment (we don't know her long term history but given the nature of her reported problems it is a possibility).
What we do know however is that she subsequently re-claimed. It wouldn't have been for 'disability benefit' as stated in the article, it could only have been for Employment & Support Allowance. There would have been no mention of a second appeal if Jacqueline had not made a re-claim.
According to the article "On November 2 she died from a suspected overdose – 13 days before her second appeal was to be heard." - this therefore means that it should not have been a completed appeal.
At the time of her death (November the 2nd) Jacqueline was clearly appealing a second 'fit for work' decision (unless she had somehow applied to have the first one set aside and reheard which is doubtful given the time lapse), it is arguably possible she was appealing a decision to place her in the Work Related Activity Group but given the outcome of the first appeal - a second 'fit for work' decision seems more likely.
Jacqueline died between December 2011 and February 2014. She should therefore be recorded somewhere in the DWP's figures.
Jacqueline would have been one of the 81,140 overall claimants listed as having died in table 2.1, specifically one of the 50,580 who had claimed Employment & Support Allowance.
She would also have, out of the 50,580, have come off Employment & Support Allowance in the Assessment Phase as one of the 7,540 'off flows' shown in table 2.2. It is possible (although unlikely) that she had been appealing a Work Related Activity Group placement, in which case she would still be shown in table 2.2 but as one of 7,200 claimants off - flowing in the group.
Given that Jacqueline had died on the 2nd November 2013 it is most likely she would appear in the DWP's WPLS quarterly statistics as an off-flow in the November 2013 quarter (covering September - November 2013 with fortnightly scans during the quarter). The off flow reason was her death and this would have been entered in to the DWP's records. In the absence of a claim end date the DWP may have entered this as up to the 16th November 2013.
When was the Work Capability Assessment decision?
Well we know Jacqueline had been found fit for work in January 2013 and she had lost her appeal. We also know (unless she had appealed the first appeal decision) that she reclaimed. We don't know when she re-claimed but it must have been after the lost appeal in January 2013. The minimum time assuming she reclaimed right after her appeal in January that would have elapsed before having a Work Capability Assessment would be three months taking us up to April (generally much longer). After the healthcare professional decided her ability to work, a decision would have been made by the DWP declaring her (the most likely scenario) fit for work, this generally follows the assessment fairly quickly, it's therefore likely a decision carrying a right of appeal was made at sometime after May, perhaps considerably longer. A further one month follows in which to appeal.
Clearly Jacqueline was appealing the decision as otherwise there would not have been an appeal hearing. She lodged her appeal but at all times the status on her claim remained 'fit for work'.
The Work Capability Assessment decision was initially sometime after May 2013, the DWP may have carried out a reconsideration of that decision but the Tribunal hearing had not taken place at the time of Jacqueline's death.
In which tables would Jacqueline appear?
Table 2.1 - the overall total
Table 2.2 - the phase - most probably 'Assessment'.
Table 2.3 - one of the total number of ESA off-flows with date of death at the same time with a decision of fit for work
Instead of table 2.3. Jacqueline could potentially have been listed in table 2.5 one of the total number of ESA off flows with date of death at the same time with a completed appeal following a WCA decision of “fit for work”
Problems with this?
The placing of Jacqueline in table 2.3 seems the most likely.
However, placement in table 2.5 would depend on whether the claim ending and the completed appeal (13 days after Jacqueline's death) could be input into the same quarterly figures, this would depend in how quickly the HMCTS Tribunal fed back the information to the DWP and how quickly the DWP acted upon it (this can be subject to substantial time delay).
The continuance of Jacqueline's appeal would depend on HMCTS being notified of her unfortunate death and whether the Tribunal was satisfied it could continue to deal with Jacqueline no longer being alive, they would generally insist upon there being an appointee.
The potential ongoing appeal (after death) would create a statistical problem as Jacqueline is still an ESA off- flow on account of her death but a claim record would still need to remain open to deal with any potential retrospective arrears of benefit in the event of the Tribunal reversing the fit for work decision.
In Jacqueline's case the article doesn't say what, if any, the outcome of the appeal was. If say the Tribunal reversed the decision, there would be a question of 'retrospection'. This would mean that the fit for work status would need to be amended to reflect one of entitlement.
If the ongoing appeal was closed because of Jacqueline's death, it then needs to be asked whether the DWP would apply the previous 'fit for work' finding and record it in table 2.3 or whether they would deem it 'complete' (in so far there being no further action HMCTS could take) and record it in table 2.5 (in which case it would be a fit for work finding).
A further factor (relating to retrospection) is assuming Jacqueline's second appeal went ahead after her death, then assuming the Tribunal reversed the fit for work decision and found that she was entitled to a Support Group placement, the DWP then have the added problem of how to reverse the statistics to reflect this. This also means that in reality (even though hypothetically) she would in retrospect be a Support Group off-flow.
In the next post I'll take a look at another of these tragic real life stories.
The excellent chronology provided by the commission makes it much easier to establish the full facts (assuming these to have been well researched and accurate given the nature of the report).
In the case of Ms DE, we know from the report (which I strongly recommend you read in full) that she claimed Incapacity benefit long term with a few breaks from 21/5/07. On the 28/6/10 she was awarded Incapacity Benefit (even though Employment & Support Allowance had been introduced in October 2008.
On the 9/12/2011 Ms DE was refused a conversion of her award of Incapacity Benefit to an award of Employment & Support Allowance. She had most probably been found fit for work following the Work Capability Assessment (without seeing the actual decision letter we cannot be sure). This followed an assessment by Atos on the 26/10/2011.
On the 31/12/2011 Ms DE was "found dead at her house after overdose" according to the Commission. The report needs to be read to get the full details.
The commission reports that the DWP decision of the 9/12/2011 was "DWP decision made – not entitled to ESA, ESA to stop 12/1/12"
I would say the commission were understandably confused by the DWP's letter, it actually said that Ms DE could not receive Employment & Support Allowance because she had been declared fit for work and that her Incapacity (credit) Benefit award would terminate on the 12/1/12 (it being quite common for an Incapacity Benefit award to run on past the Employment & Support Allowance fit for work finding date, depending on when the original award was made, arrears payments and frequency).
The only way Ms DE could possibly have qualified for Employment & Support Allowance is if she had appealed the fit for work finding and had the support of her doctor because they would need to have declared her unfit for work.
The DWP's decision of the 9/12/2011 was worded as follows:
“The Limited Capability for Work Assessment test of incapacity assesses the ability to perform specific physical activities and, where there is a mental illness, to cope with day to day living. Points are awarded to reflect limitations and a score of 15 points is needed to satisfy the test. The assessment cannot take account of the requirements of a person’s normal occupation.
[Ms DE] did not complete a questionnaire.
On 26/10/11 [Ms DE] was examined by a Healthcare Professional of the Medical Services in connection with the Work Capability Assessment and [Ms DE] described problems with Depression, Heart Failure, Abdominal Problem and Under active Thyroid. [Ms DE] lives alone and gets up independently most days at the same time, she takes her medication and is able to wash in a shower which is over the bath standing for 10-15 minutes most days. On days when she does not shower she is still able to wash herself. She sits down to dress as she feels tired but is able to complete this herself. She manages to do her housework and does it in stages and usually completes it if getting visitors. She is able to manage stairs by holding on to the rails. She is able to drive and goes out driving every few days and, once a week she drives to the local shop, church, bible study group and drives to her voluntary work. She occasionally drives to her parents’ home but her Mum visits a couple of times a week and is able to drive to any appointments. She attended to the examination centre by public transport alone. Once a month she goes to the supermarket and can walk about for 60 minutes pushing a trolley. She watches television in the evening and is able to cook herself simple meals and do things safely in the kitchen. Her adult son (18 years) visits her once a fortnight. The HCP observed that she was able to sit on a chair with a back for 50 minutes; she rose once from this chair which had no arms without physical assistance from another person. She was able to stand independently for 2 minutes without difficulty and walked 15 metres normally into the examination room and had no problems getting on to the couch. She was not breathless on examination and her chest was clear, her lower limb examination was normal.
[Ms DE] is able to self care, and interacts with her family, she does voluntary work with teenagers and speaks to the people at her church. The HCP states she was timid during the assessment but her everything else was normal in the mental state and despite her regular review by a psychiatrist there was no evidence of significant disability of mental health function.
I am satisfied that the descriptors have been fully justified with clinical findings, observations and extracts taken from the typical day history provided by [Ms DE]. The medical report of 26/10/11 was appropriate, complete and covered all the area of incapacity described by [Ms DE] as well as including a comprehensive typical day history and full set of clinical findings. The Decision Maker has considered the Healthcare Professional’s report and has decided that [Ms DE] has not achieved 15 points from the appropriate descriptors. As a consequence, the existing award(s) of [Ms DE] does not qualify for conversion into an award of Employment and Support Allowance. The existing award(s) and entitlement to be awarded credits will terminate from and including 12/01/12.”
Did Ms DE appeal?
Yes, Ms DE (with help) appealed the DWP's fit for work decision (having scored 0 points on all descriptors) which she submitted on the 21/12/2011.
MS DE submitted her appeal just four days before Christmas day of 2011 (a Sunday). She was found dead the following Saturday (31/12/2011). The DWP would have been closed for some of the days in between because of the Christmas break.
Where would Ms DE appear in the DWP statistics?
Given Ms DE's date of death on the 31/12/2011, she would have been recorded in the DWP off flow figures for February 2012 (the claim end date is known as the 12/1/2012 when the Incapacity Credit award ends).
The status on Ms DE's claim at the time of death was 'fit for work', the WCA decision being given on the 9/12/2011.
She would have been an incapacity benefit off flow recorded in February 2012, one of 157,170 for that quarter. As a person in her early 50's she would have been one of 25,260 in that age band.
It is unlikely that the appeal would have been triggered, it's reasonable to assume it came to a close at the time of her time and may therefore have simply disappeared or abandoned. If it had continued it would have required (regardless of the death) an outcome of some sort to deem it complete.
It is reasonable to assume Ms DE would have appeared in the DWP mortality statistics in table 2.6 - one of 270 individuals over 27 months between December 2011 and February 2014.
In the next post we will take a look at another real life story.
Post by nickd (Mylegal) on Sept 6, 2015 22:20:29 GMT
The case of David Barr
Dad David Barr misses his son David
In an article in the Daily Record dated 22nd September 2013 entitled "Heartbroken dad blames benefits axemen for driving his ill son to commit suicide", an account is given of the circumstances building up to David Barr's death. Aged 28, David "threw himself from the Forth Road Bridge just weeks after finding out that his employment and support allowance would be withdrawn because assessor ruled that he was fit to work" - says the article which you can read here.
David father (also called David) his son "had a host of problems including sleeplessness, memory loss and paranoia – and believes he may have been a schizophrenic."
David was assessed in May. In June, the Department of Work and Pensions provided a Work Capability Assessment decision declaring him him he was fit to work – and his employment and support allowance was being withdrawn.
In an appeal letter, David wrote: “I disagree with your decision that I am fit for work. I have serious mental health problems that prevent me from doing everyday tasks which means I cannot work at this moment in time.
It would appear that on July 17th the DWP had their 'final say' - according to the article.
On the 23rd August, David "got a bus to the bridge, walked to the middle and jumped. He was recovered from the water but died in hospital that night."
Setting aside the tragedy of the story, again focussing on how David would appear in the DWP statistics; - his death falling within the December 2011 to February 2014 dates would mean they would be included.
David had worked for 3 years up to 2011. We can therefore safely say he would have been an Employment & Support Allowance claimant. David was assessed in May 2013 and found fit for work by the DWP (they adjudicate the decision rather than Atos) in June 2013. It is unclear as to what, if any, benefits David had claimed since stopping work. He may have previously been on Employment & Support Allowance - we don't know.
David died on the 23rd August 2013 and his date of claim end could have been estimated (see previous posts) at up to 14 days afterwards. His death is therefore likely to have been included in the DWP November 2013 quarterly off flow statistics.
From June 2013 onwards David was designated 'fit for work', a second decision on the 17th July upheld the earlier decision, again fit for work.
It seems most reasonable to conclude David would appear in table 2.3.
However, if David had off flowed from Employment & Support Allowance in July 2013 after the article refers to a 'final decision' (there would actually have been a further right to appeal the DWP's second decision on the assumption that the decision of the 17th July was a reconsideration of the first) It would be inherently unlikely that the decision of the 17th July was an HMCTS Tribunal finding; things just don't happen this quickly.
This therefore opens up two further alternative possibilities:
David may have come off Employment & Support Allowance altogether in July 2013. In which case he would not be covered in any of the DWP's death statistics because the inclusion criteria is that the claim ends because of a death and a fit for work finding recorded on the claim. If David's claim ended because of the fit for work finding, that would be the reason for the end of the claim rather than the death - he would therefore not be included (because he would have already left the benefit). He would be included in the DWP's separate mortality rate statistics but this is not what we are dealing with in so far as the tables I refer to are concerned.
David may have appeared in the DWP's table 2.5 referring to completed appeals if requesting a reconsideration was counted as a completed appeal (which is not how the DWP define completed appeal in the release but it is a possible error). This would still create the possibility of David not appearing as he may have been deemed to have left the benefit because of the fit for work decision. The point of relevance is what record the DWP would have of David at the time of his death, if he had already left the benefit he could not appear in the DWP ESA statistical scans because he is no longer an ESA recipient. It is remotely possible (although with the 'final decision' reference, I doubt it) that David may had an ongoing appeal in which case he would be on the ESA system.
As can be seen, each of the three cases I have cited in this and the proceeding posts throws up a number of scenarios, all of which beg further and very specific questions of the DWP.
Colin, who suffered from epilepsy, died in April 2012. Five weeks after his death, an appeal which Colin had started, was heard and was successful. Colin's parents said their son suffered from epilepsy and died after being stripped of his benefits. They blamed his death on the stress of being found 'fit for work'.
Where would Colin figure in the DWP's figures?
There's not enough information to say whether Colin was a long term incapacity benefit claimant in the Huffington Post article.
However other articles via Blacktriangle cite MP Michael Meacher taking up Colin's case, there is also more in the local press here. From these articles it is clear Colin had long term health problems which declared him 'unemployable' in 2008. It is very possible Colin claimed IB/SDA unless he claimed after October 2008, in which case his claim would have been (save for some exceptions) for Employment & Support Allowance.
In August 2011 Colin attended a Work Capability Assessment, after which he was declared fit for work. Quoting the local press: “On April 3 the stress and anxiety resulted in a massive seizure and it took his life.”
Tragically, after his death Colin’s mother contacted the Department of Work and Pensions and was told the decision had been overturned; her son should never have been assessed.
Mr Meacher said: “if the appeal had been resolved more quickly he would almost certainly be alive today.”
Colin may have appeared in table 2.3 if he was in receipt of ESA at the time of his death, at that stage he may have been recorded as having been found fit for work (with an appeal under -way, meaning his claim was still on the DWP's records).
If the DWP used a 'retrospection' process to record Colin's completed appeal outcome, the status on his claim would have been retrospectively changed to reflect him being entitled to ESA as a 'completed appeal' case. The entry would then be in table 2.5.
If Colin was on IB/ESA he could have been entered as above but in tables 2.4 or 2.6.
The problem would be whether the completed appeal outcome could have been retrospectively changed given that Colin had quite possibly already have been recorded an either an ESA or IB/SDA off flow (because of his death) with a 'fit for work' status applied to him at that time (because it hadn't been changed).
I'll do a couple more case studies before explaining what this means.
Here's how the Mirror reported part of Graham's story:
"Graham Shawcross, 63, had potentially fatal Addison’s disease, but was ruled fit to work last November and had his £400-a-month incapacity benefit halted.
He died of a heart attack in February this year.
Yvonne, his wife of 23 years, claims the stress of losing his benefits, and of launching an appeal against the decision, caused his death.
She told Department of Work and Pensions bosses Graham had died, but they still invited him to attend an appeal hearing - and wrote again a few days later to say he was eligible for Employment and Support Allowance for at least the next 24 months.
Yvonne of Radcliffe, Manchester, said: “Graham would surely be alive today if it was not for the stress.
“The month before he died, you could tell he was going downhill. He was completely not himself, his stress levels were going through the roof and he was upping his steroids to higher levels every day.
“Graham was talking about his appeal constantly and writing the details out dozens of times a day.
“He was a proud man and what upset him most was that he thought they were calling him a liar."
Where would Graham appear in the DWP statistics?
The Mirror article refers to Graham having his "£400 a month Incapacity Benefit halted". This implies he was a not a new Employment & Support Allowance claimant because he would have received less (around a little over £71 per week) pending his assessment. The longer term nature of Graham's condition also implies he would more probably have been an Incapacity Benefit claimant undergoing 'conversion' assessment to see if he may have qualified for a continuation of his award under the newer Employment & Support Allowance rules.
Importantly, if Graham was a 'conversion' case the Employment & Support Allowance claim would not have been a new claim, it would have been a question of converting his older incapacity award over to the newer rules.
Graham, should (providing his death was 'caught' by the February 2014 quarter in which he died), appear in table 2.4 which details those who came of IB/SDA following what can only be a WCA 'Fit for Work' decision. Importantly even though an incapacity claimant, Graham was subjected to the Work Capability Assessment - the focal point of the statistics. Graham would have been one of 270 people in that statistical set. At the time of his death the status on his claim would have been 'fit for work'.
It is possible Graham would have been subject to 'retrospection', because the fit for work status should have been subsequently amended to reflect his completed appeal and this would have been one of 20 cases in table 2.6. However, the problem with this is that in June 2014 - 4 months after his death - a Tribunal found the case in his favour. This would depend entirely on the DWP applying the statistics with retrospection - bear in mind they are published some time after the actual dates to which they refer due to data lag.
How would the DWP amend the records when by June 2014, Graham had been dead 4 months beforehand? - Can the DWP reverse the statistic to reflect what the tribunal later agreed - Graham was not actually fit for work but had been entitled to Employment & Support Allowance ever since November 2013 (the retrospective decision on his entitlement) - it's another question which needs asking of the DWP.