‘You should be ashamed’: Oldham MP takes aim at Government over ‘fit for work’ death figures

Oldham MP Debbie Abrahams has said the Government should be ‘ashamed’ after it was revealed that more than 2,300 people have died after being deemed fit for work by benefits officials.

Figures released by the Department for Work and Pensions this week showed that between December 2011 and February 2014 that around 90 people a month died within weeks of being taken off employment and support allowance (ESA) having been assessed as fit to work by a Government contractor.

The shock figures have prompted charities, Labour leadership candidates – including Leigh MP Andy Burnham – and Ms Abrahams to call for a rethink on benefits.

Ms Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, said: “People on IB or ESA are very sick and vulnerable people and should not be being vilified by Iain Duncan Smith as he did, again, earlier this week when he suggested that some people are behaving in a fraudulent way. We should be looking after them not humiliating them and demonising them.

“Imagine if that was a member of your family or a friend. This is what’s going on in this country today; one of the richest countries in the world. The Government should be ashamed. They should also apologise to claimants and families of those that have died for the distress they must have caused.”

The Government only released the figures after the Information Commissioner ordered them to do so. A Freedom of Information request for the data was turned down, prompting the appeal to the ICO.

Almost 250,000 people signed a petition urging the Government to make the figures public.

Ms Abrahams added: “It’s disgusting that this government, the one David Cameron promised would be the most open and transparent, would deliberately try and suppress these figures for so long.

“It was only because the Information Commissioner ordered the government to publish them, back in April that we can now start to see the damage Iain Duncan Smith’s cruel regime is having on thousands of innocent and vulnerable people.

‘I also want to pay tribute the 249,000 people who have signed the petition calling for these data to be published.

“It’s also pretty obvious that the Government deliberately chose to publish these figures on the same day as announcements about new Peers and the latest migration statistics in a devious attempt to bury their own bad news.”

The DWP said it did not hold the reason for the deaths so no link could be drawn between them and the result of fit for work tests.

A spokesman said: “These isolated figures provide limited scope for analysis, and nothing can be gained from this publication that would allow the reader to form any judgment as to the effects or impacts of the WCA.”

Picture courtesy of Helen Cobain, with thanks. 

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