Socialist Worker

Iain Duncan Smith can't hide the shame of his benefit attacks

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2469

Protesters have challenged the Tories’ benefit cuts

Protesters have challenged the Tories’ benefit cuts (Pic: Guy Smallman )


Hated Tory minister Iain Duncan Smith is struggling to bury the truth about how many people have died after he cut their benefits.

For five years he has made unemployed and disabled people jump through ever more difficult hoops to get ever stingier benefits.

The bedroom tax, tests to find sick and disabled people “fit for work” and sanctions that condemn people to food banks have caused misery.

His Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) responded to a Freedom of Information (FoI) request last week following months of delay.

It asked how many benefit claimants have died after being found fit for work.

The figures showed that 2,650 benefit claimants died shortly after they were declared “fit for work” between December 2011 and February 2014. 

Nearly all of them, 2,380 people, were claiming Employment and Support Allowance.

The statistics included tables that Duncan Smith had claimed only a month previously did not exist. 

Campaigners are angry that the DWP response didn’t include enough information to answer their question properly. But they know the tests are lethal (see below). So are benefit sanctions and the bedroom tax.

Publication

In a separate fight Duncan Smith is trying to stop the publication of reviews carried out by the DWP into the deaths of specific claimants.

And around half of those people who are found fit for work drop out of the benefits system altogether. The Tories make no attempt to find out what happens to them.

Duncan Smith has been repeatedly pulled up by the official statistics watchdog over his complicated relationship to the truth.

It took a ruling by the Information Commissioner to make the DWP reveal what data it has. 

Mike Sivier, the campaigner who launched the FoI, could fight on in a tribunal in November.

The Tories like to pretend their benefit cuts are about being fair and getting people into work. They claim the cuts are popular.

But when the truth slips out widespread horror can quickly turn to anger.

Outsourcing firm Atos had to pull out of conducting work capability assessments after protests made its brand so toxic it started to risk its profits.

Now the United Nations is sending a special rapporteur to Britain to investigate whether benefit cuts are violating disabled people’s human rights.

Resistance can make Duncan Smith’s Victorian crusade against the poor history.


Job centre staff told to expect suicide threats

Job centre workers in at least two areas have been given detailed instructions for dealing with benefit claimants threatening to self harm or kill themselves.

Workers piloting Iain Duncan Smith’s Universal Credit scheme in Glasgow and Bolton leaked the instructions.

They are to wave a laminated pink card in the air to alert management. 

Then they must quiz the claimant “specifically” on how and when they intend to self harm or kill themselves.

The instructions reassure workers that if they have “thoughts and feelings” about this it is “normal”.

Universal Credit extends the power to sanction benefits by bringing together a number of payments.


 Humiliating tests drive claimants to their deaths

Doctors have slammed the fit for work test procedure, known as a Work Capability Assessment (WCA). 

Stuart Chester has Down’s syndrome, epilepsy and autism. He can’t feed or wash himself.

Yet Stuart became the latest target of the Tories’ benefit assault last week. 

He has been given a 20-page WCA application form to prove he needs disability benefits.

In the past people with missing limbs, terminal illnesses and even in comas have been found fit for work.

Their benefits are then snatched away. 

Disabled people have described being made to crawl on the floor to prove their disability. 

Invisible conditions such as epilepsy and mental illnesses can be missed entirely during a short assessment, yet have huge implications for a person’s life. 

And dozens of individual cases have given an insight into deadly effects of benefit cuts.

Karen Sherlock, Brian McArdle and Stephen Hill died from heart attacks after their benefits were cut off. 

Transplant patient Linda Wootton received the decision as she lay dying in her hospital bed. Mark Wood, suffering with mental health problems, starved to death.

Many more people took their own lives. 

Paul Reekie, Leanne Chambers, Tim Salter, Edward Jacques, Elenore Tatton, Jacqueline Harris, David Bridge and Nicholas Barker all killed themselves after their WCAs.

Others fell to the stress and fear before the tests.

Get involved with campaigning against benefit cuts and to defend disabled people—go to dpac.uk.net


 

 


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