Hundreds of disabled people are continuing to die every year after having their claims for disability benefits rejected, new Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) figures have revealed.
The figures show that, in just two years, 1,700 disabled people died within three months of having their claim for personal independence payment (PIP) rejected.
The figures do not prove that the rejections of the PIP claims caused the deaths – although it is possible that wrongful decisions may contribute to or cause some deaths – but instead suggest that hundreds of disabled people every year appear to be dying without the financial support they need and deserve, after having their claims wrongly rejected by DWP.
All 1,700 disabled people who died had their claims turned down between April 2018 and January this year, and died between April 2018 and 30 April 2020.
Comparing them with figures released in early 2019 also suggest that the likelihood of someone having their PIP claim rejected and dying soon afterwards may even have increased in the last two years.
The findings on the increase are tentative because the two sets of figures were not calculated in the same way by DWP.
But other figures have showed a deteriorating performance across a similar time period by DWP contractors Atos and Capita, which carry out the assessments on the government’s behalf.
When taken as a proportion of about 1.461 million PIP registrations between April 2018 and January 2020, about 0.12 per cent of claimants went on to die within three months of having their claim rejected.
The earlier figures, released in February 2019, showed 3,680 PIP claimants died within three months of their initial PIP application being rejected between April 2013 and April 2018, out of about 3.6 million registrations, a rate of about 0.10 per cent.
These comparative rates are only approximate figures, and they have been calculated by Disability News Service (DNS) and not DWP, while there may be unknown factors that explain the apparent increase in the likelihood of someone dying soon after having a PIP claim rejected.
But they do raise further questions about the PIP assessment system, and they could add to mounting calls for major reform.
The new figures were released to Labour MP Jessica Morden by the minister for disabled people, Justin Tomlinson.
He insisted that the figures showed no links between the reason the person had submitted a PIP application and their subsequent death.
Tomlinson told Morden: “There is no evidence in this data to suggest someone’s reason for claiming Personal Independence Payments was the cause of their death and it would be misleading to suggest otherwise.”
He also claimed that DWP “treats the tragic death of any claimant sympathetically”.
But there have been repeated warnings of substandard assessments carried out by Atos and Capita.
DWP figures released last year showed the percentage of substandard PIP assessment reports carried out by Atos rose from about 25 per cent in 2016-17 to reach more than 36 per cent in 2018-19.
The proportion of substandard PIP reports completed by Capita reached 37 per cent in the 2018 calendar year, from less than 33 per cent in 2016.
DNS spent months investigating allegations of dishonesty by PIP assessors in late 2016 and throughout 2017, hearing eventually from more than 250 disabled people in less than a year about how they had been unfairly deprived of their benefits, with such cases still continuing to come in nearly four years after that investigation began.
A DWP spokesperson said: “These figures do not show causality and any claim to suggest otherwise is misleading.
“People claim PIP for various reasons, the majority of which are non-life threatening.”
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