Having fought for over a year to keep the information secret, the DWP have finally been forced by the Information Commissioner to reveal that claimants on the work programme were among the 49 people whose deaths were peer reviewed by the DWP.
Back in June 2015, we asked the DWP two very straightforward questions via the Freedom of Information Act:
How many of the 49 claimants whose deaths were peer reviewed were ESA claimants who were, or had recently been, on the work programme?
How many of these were deemed to be vulnerable claimants in relation to ‘safeguarding’ procedures?
These were questions that only required a single number each as answers.
Nonetheless, the DWP repeatedly refused to answer either question, claiming first that they could not do so because it might identify the claimants and then that it was information gained in the course of their duties and so could not be disclosed.
The DWP continued to dig their heels in until instructed to answer by the Information Commissioner in May of this year.
The answer is as short and simple as we always maintained it would be:
“Of the 49 peer reviews two individuals were ESA claimants who were or had recently been on the work programme. Of these one individual was identified as being vulnerable.”
We know from a separate Freedom of Information Act response that 22 claimants in the peer reviews were ESA claimants. We now know that 2 of this number had been obliged to participate in the work programme – it is possible they volunteered but it seems extremely improbable.
Elsewhere on Benefits and Work we have analysed the available details on the 49 deaths. One very clear conclusion was that the commonest failings by the DWP were failure to identify and to support vulnerable claimants.
The fact that two of the claimants who died had been on the mandatory work programme offers further support for the belief that there was a widespread failing by the DWP in its duty of care to vulnerable claimants.