DWP to face inquiry into deaths of disabled people

  • Post last modified:May 22, 2024
  • Reading time:6 mins read

Today in “that bump under the rug? Oh it’s just important disabled news don’t look at that”, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has announced they are launching an inquiry on the DWP.

The failing department is being investigated due to its the inhumane ways they treat disabled people who claim benefits. This will include the link between vulnerable people losing benefits and their deaths.

The EHRC will examine whether DWP ministers and the policies they were responsible for not only failed to protect disabled people including those with learning disabilities and mental illnesses – but actively harmed them and contributed to their deaths. 

Strongest possible action against the DWP?

The inquiry will focus on benefits assessments and how health decisions are made to award or deny disabled people benefits such as Personal Independence Payment (PIP) as well as the Work Capability Assessment that are used to force disabled unemployed people into work – or worse deny them benefits that allow them to live.

The chair of the EHRC, Kishwer Faulkner said:

We are extremely worried about the treatment of some disabled benefits claimants by the DWP. We suspect the department may have broken equality law. We have decided we need to take the strongest possible action and that’s why we’ve launched this investigation.

Whilst past and current ministers and senior officials will be called to explain themselves, there’s of course a catch. The scope of the inquiry is only from 2021 to now. 

Biggest offenders let off the hook

This means that although Mel Stride will have to answer for his crimes, Therese Coffey’s inhumanity will be limited to just the last year of her stint. This means she still won’t have to reveal the true scale of benefits deaths that she refused to disclose under the loophole of it being the previous minister Amber Rudd’s investigation.

Chloe Smith who was in the role for just seven weeks during the Liz Truss fever dream of 2022 will have to report to the inquiry. Yet Iain Duncan Smith who was responsible for the cruellest policies from 2010-2016 will get off scot-free.

The investigation won’t include the deaths of claimants such as Errol Graham who starved to death in 2018 after his payments were stopped or Michael O’Sullivan who died by suicide after being declared fit for work.

DWP want to add more disabled deaths to the list

And while all this happens the DWP are pushing on with their plans to “reform welfare” which will, you’ve guessed it, kill more disabled people. 

Following on from announcing that we can no longer trust doctors to give out fit notes and the ludicrous idea to give disabled people vouchers instead of benefits, wet wipe Mel Stride was at a Jobcentre this week.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t signing on.

Instead he was there to announce that businesses should employ unemployed people. Yes really. He announced that the DWP will be utilising AI to deny benefit claimants instead of just people. That people will be sent to work “Bootcamps” to force people back into work.

He laughably claimed that the plan will show “Fairness for those who can’t work and are in the most need of the state’s help.” 

However, he forgets to include that the DWP, who are already responsible for until deaths, will be the ones deciding who can and can’t work. It’s understandable then that the government are trying to downplay this damning inquiry, and what’s the best way to distract attention

Today? Finally???

It’s a funny old game being a political journalist.

You’re usually always acutely aware that time is of the essence, but today there’s an impending sense that my story is going to become irrelevant as soon as I’ve written it. The reason? Well social media is abuzz with rumours that the general election may finally be called today.

When I last checked we’d reached fever pitch as someone had spotted Rishi’s usually buttons illiterate chief of staff Liam Booth-Smith wearing a tie – this MUST mean he’s preparing to solemnly stand in front of cameras!! Commentators speculated.

No such thing as chance

It feels like no coincidence that the prime minister may finally be giving the people what they’re crying out for on the same day that an inquiry is launched into the treatment of the very people his government have spent decades demonising and killing.

If the announcement does come this week we must do everything we can to hold the Tories – and the next government – to account. We can’t let this DWP inquiry and the treatment of disabled people be brushed under the rug.

Featured image via the Canary

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