John Pring’s Disability News Service (DNS) has revealed that the numbers of secret reviews into benefits deaths appears to have doubled in the last two years. The investigations now include deaths related to universal credit (UC).
Figures obtained from the DWP by DNS show that, from April 2016 to June 2018, DWP panels carried out 50 reviews, including 33 involving the death of a benefit claimant, or roughly 1.27 death-related reviews a month.
DWP figures previously obtained by DNS show that, between October 2014 and January 2016, there were nine reviews involving a death, or about 0.6 a month.
The new figures also show that 19 of the deaths in the last two years involved a claimant viewed as “vulnerable”, while six of the reviews (and four deaths) related to a claimant of UC.
In one case of a death linked to UC, the panel of reviewers criticised the fact that the claimant commitment included an “excessive” eight references to sanctions and how much money a claimant would lose if they breached their commitment.
The panel suggested that: “…a better balance could be struck in reminding a client of the consequences of not meeting their obligations and not appearing to be overtly threatening, especially to individuals who are vulnerable.”
The DWP have so far refused to say if they have made any alteration to their communications as a result of the panel’s findings.