Login FormClose

Free, fortnightly PIP, ESA and UC Updates

Over 80,000 claimants and professionals subscribe to the UK's leading source of benefits news.


An average of two benefits related deaths every month are secretly investigated by the DWP, it has been revealed. But the evidence from such reviews may not be being passed on to coroners courts or bereaved relatives. In addition, the DWP are refusing to follow an official recommendation that a medically qualified person should always review any Atos medical report following a benefits related death.

Last week, Disability News Service revealed that the DWP has carried out 60 ‘peer reviews’ of benefit related deaths of claimants since February 2012. Reviews carried out before this date have not been collated nationally and the DWP has no plans to do so.

The disclosure of the 60 reviews comes after years of the DWP denying that any such investigations take place.

In reality the reviews are so standard that guidelines exist on when they should be instigated and how they should be conducted.

"Under Iain Duncan Smith, the DWP have set a value on a claimant’s life of less than £200."

According to DNS the reviews should take place in every case where ‘suicide is associated with DWP activity’ and they may also need to be carried out in relation to claimants with ‘additional needs’ or who are ‘vulnerable’.

Benefits and Work has found additional detailed information about peer reviews in a report published in March of this year by a statutory body, the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland, into the death of a claimant referred to as Ms DE.

The Commission are scathing of the review process, pointing out that it does not include a review of the Atos report by a medically qualified reviewer. One of Commission’s recommendations was that:

‘The peer review process should include a review by a suitably qualified medical practitioner of an assessment made by an Atos healthcare professional.’

However, in their response the DWP refuse to do this, saying only that:

‘. . . where the peer review author identifies that it might be useful for the Atos Healthcare report to be reviewed by a qualified medical practitioner then a referral is made for them to either review internally or ask Atos Healthcare to formally review.’

The Commission reply that:

‘. . . the Peer Review does not involve a medical practitioner unless the reviewer (not medically

qualified) makes a referral. We continue to recommend medical peer review as a more robust assurance of the quality of medical assessments.’

Instead of a qualified review of the medical evidence, the check by the DWP looks solely into whether they have followed their own policy and guidance throughout the ‘five stages’ of an ESA claim: ‘the initial letter being sent; the ESA50 form; the Atos examination; the decision making; and appeal and closure.’

Nonetheless, this could still be vital evidence where, for example, the DWP fail to properly define a claimant as being vulnerable or fail to carry out a home visit to a vulnerable claimant when their ESA claim is turned down and they do not respond to phone calls.

The fact that the DWP have refused, until very recently, to even admit the existence of these reports in response to freedom of Information requests suggests that they are treating them as internal management reviews of procedures, instead of vital evidence relating to claimant deaths that should be made available to interested parties.

In the case of Ms DE, the DWP did not even carry out the review until nine months after her death.

The secrecy and slowness of the peer review process leads to the conclusion that this is not information that the DWP wants ever to be in the public domain. It seems unlikely, then, that coroners are informed in advance by the DWP that a review is available, or that one could be carried out and made available.

In the case of Atos, we are absolutely not suggesting that poorly conducted WCAs have been proven to contribute to the deaths of any specific claimants. However, the fact that the DWP bluntly refuse to automatically have WCA reports checked by someone medically qualified as a routine precaution to potentially prevent other deaths, means that we cannot have any certainty.

The reality is that it would cost no more than a few hundred pounds to have a different health professional review an Atos medical report. The fact that the DWP refuse to do so does tell us one thing with absolute certainty: under Iain Duncan Smith, the DWP have set a value on a claimant’s life of less than £200.


+1 #7 tintack 2014-11-24 00:11
One of Commission’s recommendations was that:

‘The peer review process should include a review by a suitably qualified medical practitioner of an assessment made by an Atos healthcare professional.’

However, in their response the DWP refuse to do this
That's no surprise. The WCA is a replica of the bogus test that got UNUM prosecuted for fraud in the US in 2003, and both are based on the pseudoscientifi c drivel peddled by the likes of Aylward, O'Donnell and co.. Despite the fact that this bogus nonsense is the basis of government policy, it has never been subjected to independent peer review by mainstream medical experts. Why? Because the DWP knows full well that if that were to happen, it would be laughed out of court. So of course it has rejected this commission's proposal for a case to be reviewed by a properly qualified medical practitoner - the last thing the DWP wants to introduce into any element of the WCA process is, well, you know, actual medical expertise.

There's a clue to this in the WCA handbook, which the DWP's chief medical officer claims is based on "a significant body of medical opinion". The vagueness of that phrase is telling, because if the WCA had the support of mainstream medical experts, you can be sure that the handbook would say so, loud and clear. But it can't say that, because mainstream medical opinion wants nothing to do with the WCA, as proven by the BMA's vote for it to be scrapped immediately. So the "significant body of medical opinion" turns out to amount to nothing more than the discredited academics who cooked up this tainted nonsense in order to serve the vested interests of political ideology and private profits. In other words, this "body of medical opinion" is about as "significant" and authoritative as Katie Price's opinions on the finer points of quantum mechanics.
+2 #6 angela 2014-11-21 12:35
We are British we do not have any human rights under this goverment things will only get worse if this government stay in power
+1 #5 Paul Richards 2014-11-20 23:48
Hi all,
I have been forecasting for weeks now that UKIP will win the Rochester & Strood By-Election and if they do, then most probably (after 3 By-Election defeats! (3 strikes than you're out!) - the Tory Grandees and backbenchers will be baying for Cameron's head and his blood also.

By first light on Friday, if they've won - Cameron is probably soon gone and hopefully that 'bar-steward' IDS will be too (in a probable re-shuffle of this miserable and horrible Tory Coalition.)

If both of them do not go - then it will be another total disgrace!!
And even more possibilities that IDS has something awful on Cameron or someone very close to Cameron!! Watch this space!
+3 #4 Paul Richards 2014-11-20 23:32
Hi all,
Just as a relevant postscript - as I write this (at 2317) they are interviewing IDS himself (on Sky News) - that totally discredited ex-Guards Captain 'bar-steward' who has presided over a total and unmitigated failure of their 'flagship' policy of 'welfare Reform' - he is a total disgrace and is, as usual and always - in total denial of what he has done as the 'captain of his ship' - and as always - 'UKIP' is not going to win and if they do 'Labour will be the winner'.
He recommends voting 'Conservative' - WHAT? For all that they have and have not done for the poor, sick and disabled of Britain!
He is sadly deluded & he must be joking - if it was not so serious.
He has after all presided over the suicides of so many people of this country - and he will in no way, admit any responsibility at all. What a sad and totally unrepentant sod.

Also, and not forgetting - the BBC 6 o'clock News this evening did not mention even ONCE about the 'Rochester & Strood' By-Election.

This is surely a 'biased' disgrace also. If it were a Tory favoured By-Election, then both Sky & the BBC would be all over it and interviewing all of the Tory politicians galore.
It all just goes to show what a truly 'right-wing' media that we have in the U.K.
We are paying a TV licence to the BBC and we expect it NOT to be at all politically biased.
Sky is a bit different as it is largely majorly funded by the various advertising companies!
+3 #3 Paul Richards 2014-11-20 21:09
Hi all,
Having thought about all of this - why is IDS not being held to account (as he is the 'Minister' in charge of the Department for Works and Pensions) for many of these deaths - allegedly being caused by his own Department's policies. If you or me were responsible for these - we would be definitely be held to account, we would be dragged up to Court - and most probably be charged for 'manslaughter' (but not through diminished responsibility!)
As a 'human' I would not be in his shoes for all of the tea in China.
BUT, in our 'democracy' he will no doubt get away with all of it - he will be cock-a-hoop with it all - he will still be in 'Government' - lording it over all whom he surveys - still getting his 'Government' salary, his jumped-up ex-Guards Pension, his private pension, plus all of his 'Government' expenses and perks - LOVELY!
He would no doubt say, - I'm alright mate - I don't care a sh*t about you - especially if you are poor, unemployed, sick or disabled. What a very rich, sick & non-caring total 'bar-steward'!
+1 #2 Paul Richards 2014-11-20 20:53
Hi all,
I am saving my latest thoughts for this one!
In all my born days, I have (almost!) never known such a terrible travesty of justice than this one has turned out to be.
I have various comments on this - namely:
Why is DWP (in Constitutional Rights) able to get away with this?
Why is IDS (as the 'Minister' in charge of the Department for Works & Pensions) also able to get away with this?
If it was another 'Government' Department/Agen cy - there would probably be (at least) an inter-Governmen tal investigation as to what has been going on. WHY has an investigation not been launched into these very obvious Departmental irregularities?
How are they actually allowed to pass the buck to ATOS and not get a 'real' general practitioner (not a HCP, who may only be a 'lesser' health professional - such as a care-assistant, or a physiotherapist , a chiropractor or chiropodist. This is also a real shame as all of these professions are 'health professionals' in their own right and they should not be depreciated by their associations with ATOS etc. They may not be GP's but they are real health care professionals nevertheless (but not qualified to preside over most WCA's) to carry out a full and proper Medical Appraisement.
It seems to me that the DWP has negated it's own responsibilitie s in favour of letting ATOS do 'internal investigations' . This is akin to letting a 'rabbit out to count the lettuce in the field' - after all, they will end up eating all of the lettuce that is presented before them!
ATOS will come out millions of pounds richer and their 'HCP's will be unblemished and DWP will have carried out their 5 step routine and they will come out unblemished.
Meanwhile, far too many people have topped themselves through no fault of their own & proven Government policies of unfair sanctioning and terrible delays in benefit payments - LOVELY!
+6 #1 Frogman9 2014-11-20 13:47
It's about time this was investigated ...what about our human rights, it's disgusting how the sick and disabled have been treated.

You need to be logged in to comment