The DWP is actively working to block potentially life-saving university research to discover whether there is a link between benefits sanctions, ill health and even suicide.
The research involves Glasgow University linking anonymised DWP data with NHS records to see if sanctioned individuals had, for example been prescribed antidepressants, had an existing condition get worse or even taken their own life.
The DWP claimed in 2019 that it was supporting the project, but since then has put continual barriers in its way. The department spent years demanding ever tighter security measures for the research. When these were all finally put in place the DWP then insisted that the university must apply for permission to do the research all over again.
According to Professor Nick Bailey, the research should have been completed in 2020, but it has yet to even start.
The chair of the Commons work and pensions committee, Stephen Timms told the Guardian “This emerging pattern of obstruction suggests that a culture of secrecy is entrenched in DWP. It must wake up to the harm that it is doing and commit to a new spirit of openness.”
Vital sanctions research
Benefits and Work believes that this vital research that could well provide rigorous academic proof that DWP sanctions policies are leading to the loss of claimants’ lives. So it comes as no surprise that the DWP is trying to prevent it going ahead, particularly at a time when it is dramatically increasing the number of sanctions it hands out. As we reported last month, universal credit sanctions are now rocketing.
The only real question is why politicians of all parties, with a few honourable exceptions, are so willing to look the other way rather than raise their voices in protest when it is the lives of claimants that are at risk from an entirely avoidable harm.
You can read the full story in the Guardian.