The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has dismissed a call from the UK statistics regulator to provide figures that would show how many universal credit claimants are being found “fit for work” through the work capability assessment (WCA) process.
Despite ministers launching universal credit in 2013, DWP has yet to provide any statistics to show how many disabled claimants have been put through the WCA, how long they have had to wait for a WCA, what level of benefit they received following their assessment, and how many of them were being found fit for work.
Even though the WCA system has been closely linked to countless deaths of disabled people over the last decade, DWP produces only statistics relating to employment and support allowance (ESA) and the WCA.
Most non-working disabled people are now receiving universal credit rather than ESA, which is being phased out.
When Chloe Smith, the minister for disabled people, was questioned about the statistics last month, she told MPs on the Commons work and pensions committee that ministers had no intention of producing them.
She told the committee that it was too expensive and too much effort to produce the figures, even though she will be aware that the assessment system has been linked to hundreds, and probably thousands, of deaths over the last decade.
The Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) has been in discussions with DWP since Disability News Service (DNS) wrote to the regulator in March to question the department’s continuing failure to produce the figures for universal credit claimants.
OSR wrote to DWP’s chief statistician in April, questioning the “gap in the information” on WCAs.
Mary Gregory, OSR’s deputy director for regulation, said in her letter to DWP that there had been a “continued and unfulfilled need for WCA statistics since the rollout of Universal Credit”.
She said in the letter that DWP had pointed out as part of a consultation five years ago that it hoped to investigate providing such figures, but she said that “no further information on these areas for future exploration has been published”.
Now DWP’s chief statistician Steve Ellerd-Elliott has finally responded to Gregory’s letter.
In his letter, he describes the process DWP goes through when it produces a new set of statistics.
He also repeats comments made by work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey last month, in which she told the work and pensions committee that there were “currently no plans to develop official statistics on UC claimants undergoing a WCA”.
Coffey told MPs: “While we will keep this position under review, I anticipate there will be fewer resources available, and I am not committing to developing new statistics at this time.”
Ellerd-Elliott told OSR in the letter: “Once there is confirmation on the resources available to the Department there will need to be an assessment on our development priorities within the Statistical Work Programme which will include the proposal for statistics on work capability assessment outcomes for Universal Credit claimants.”
An OSR spokesperson told DNS yesterday (Wednesday) that the letter was “with the relevant OSR team who are considering the points raised in it and our response”.
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…