The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has carried out secret reviews into more than 175 deaths of benefit claimants since February 2012, including 80 in the last three full calendar years, new figures have revealed.
The figures also suggest that DWP has now carried out more than 200 secret reviews into the deaths of claimants over the last decade.
Information released to Disability News Service (DNS) through a freedom of information request shows that DWP carried out 40 internal process reviews into deaths in 2019, the last full year before the pandemic.
There were another 22 reviews into deaths last year, and in total there were 126 reviews in the five years between January 2016 and the end of December 2020.
Figures previously released to DNS showed there were 49 secret reviews into deaths between February 2012 and the autumn of 2014.
But because DWP has now destroyed records of reviews carried out before 2016, it claims it is not able to say how many were carried out in the 2014 or 2015 calendar years, although previous freedom of information responses show there were nine reviews between August 2014 and April 2016.
DWP did not keep a central record of reviews carried out following the deaths of claimants before February 2012.
It is the first time that accurate numbers have been secured to show how many reviews DWP has carried out each year since 2015, and the freedom of information response shows there were 17 in 2016, 29 in 2017, 18 in 2018, 40 in 2019 and 22 last year.
The figures should add weight to calls for an independent inquiry into DWP failings that have led to the deaths of claimants, and whether there has been misconduct by senior civil servants and ministers.
There is added urgency to those calls as DWP says it has already destroyed its own reports into deaths that took place pre-2016.
Only last month, DNS revealed that new evidence suggested that DWP had lied when it claimed that it had no “duty of care” to protect disabled benefit claimants.
This follows a decade of cases linking DWP’s policies and practices to the deaths of disabled people, particularly those who were being assessed for employment and support allowance and personal independence payment and had experience of mental distress.
A note from the editor:
Please consider making a voluntary financial contribution to support the work of DNS and allow it to continue producing independent, carefully-researched news stories that focus on the lives and rights of disabled people and their user-led organisations.
Please do not contribute if you cannot afford to do so, and please note that DNS is not a charity. It is run and owned by disabled journalist John Pring and has been from its launch in April 2009.
Thank you for anything you can do to support the work of DNS…