Benefits and statistics (August 2015)

I appreciate that the issue regarding death amonst benefit claimants is a highly emotive issue.  It is important to remember that, behind the numbers, each individual death is a tragedy for that person's family and loved ones.
The statistics published on 27th August show the mortality rate for out-of-work working age benefit claimants has fallen over the last ten years, at a similar rate to the fall in mortality among the general working-age population. The mortality rate for those on out-of-work benefits has remained at around three times that of the general populace, which is reflective of the fact that this group contains a high proportion of people who are very sick or severely disabled. The mortality rate for those claiming Jobseeker's Allowance is lower than that of the general working age population, whereas the rate for those claiming Employment and Support Allowance (and particularly those in the Support group) is higher. This suggests those who are sick and disabled are being properly identified and receiving the right support.
The figures set out the number of people who had died within a year of having undergone a Work Capability Assessment, including how many of these people were declared fit for work. This statistic simply indicates correlation, not causation. It is a shame that some have seen fit to make their own assumptions about a causal effect between these deaths and the outcome of Work Capability Assessments, as it is not possible to draw such conclusions from the statistics. The Government does not hold information on the cause of death in these cases, and the statistics are solely based on looking at the number of cases in which benefits ceased to be paid as a result of the claimant's death.
The Department for Work and Pensions has been clear for some months that it intended to publish these statistics. The delay was due to the fact that these were high-quality statistics which included age-standardised mortality rates, the measure used by the independent Office for National Statistics. This data has not been published before, including under the last Labour Government when the Work Capability Assessment was first introduced, and the Department was keen to ensure the data met these high standards before publishing.

August 2015