Call for independent inquiry into deaths of people deemed ‘fit for work’ by DWP

An independent inquiry should be held into the deaths of people declared “fit for work” by the Government, according to a Labour MP.

Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East and Saddleworth) said the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) needs to be more open with the results of its own reviews into these matters, and hand over evidence of wrongdoing to the police.

Speaking during work and pensions questions in the Commons, she said: “My concern is the number of people who are dying after being found fit for work.”

She called on secretary of state Amber Rudd to commit to publishing internal investigations on those who have died, as well as holding an “independent inquiry”.

In 2015 the DWP revealed 2,380 people had died between December 2011 and February 2014 after being declared fit for work, a rate of 90 a month.

Ms Abrahams also asked if there was found to be “wrongdoing by somebody in a public office” in relation to the workplace assessments that evidence would be forwarded to officers.

In response the disabilities minister Justin Tomlinson said: “This Government is committed to working with stakeholders and those with front-line expertise to continue to make improvements.

“With the work capability assessments there’s been two independent reviews for which we accepted and implemented over a hundred improvements and we will continue to do all we can to improve the process for claimants.”

Labour MP Emma Hardy (Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle) later raised concerns about people who have been “wrongly assessed” as fit for work when they are “so clearly disabled”.

She added: “Surely it is time now for the secretary of state to admit that the whole process of work capability assessments is flawed and in need of an urgent review.”

Work and Pensions Secretary Ms Rudd, in her reply, said: “I know that we need to do better for making sure that people don’t have to wait so long for a tribunal, so I am looking again at what we can do.

“I’m focusing particularly on making sure that that first decision collects more information and that the mandatory reassessment has more content into it.

“We are already looking into it and I’m seeing some extraordinarily good progress being made in terms of making sure that that mandatory reconsideration has more information.

“I will be coming back to her and others with more information in due course.

“I recognise we need to do more and I’m on it.”

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