Iain Duncan Smith, former Work and Pensions Secretary, headed team of ministers who did nothing to protect vulnerable, says report.
‘No matter what they tell you, No matter what they do, No matter what they teach us, What we believe is true’1
How true those words have become with the long-awaited reports of secret internal inquiries into deaths of people claiming disability benefits being finally released on Friday.
The very existence of the reports was for a long time denied by UK Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) ministers – headed by then secretary of state Iain Duncan Smith.
Although heavily redacted2, or censored, the reports do still show that government ministers stood by and did nothing despite being warned that the Work Capability Assessment back-to-work tests were hitting vulnerable disabled people the hardest.
This has got to be the 21st century’s most tragic equivalent of the biblical story of Pontius Pilate’s hand washing. But this time, the ‘it is not my fault’ argument just won’t wash.
However, unbelievably, the DWP is continuing to deny responsibility. A spokesman said: “Any suicide is a tragedy and the reasons for them are complex, however it would be inaccurate and misleading to link it solely to a person’s benefit claim.”
There were 49 inquiries up to August 2014. They were mostly undertaken after claimant suicides and though, after numerous redactions, they fail to make a direct link between benefit cuts and claimant deaths, they do highlight widespread flaws that lead to vulnerable claimants experiencing trauma.
Ministers initially denied that they held any records on people whose deaths may have been linked to benefits system. This was untrue, they were just being hidden as the release of the reports, in response to Freedom of Information (FOI) demands, clearly shows.
Apparently, another nine cases have been investigated since August 2014 and are already subject to further FOI requests.
1No matter what (recorded by Boyzone) Songwriters LLOYD WEBBER, ANDREW / STEINMAN, JIM Published by Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group
2Officials have removed from the reports any references to the specific events that triggered an investigation, as well as dates, names of claimants or staff and locations. Several of the inquiry reports have been stripped of almost all data. In two instances, investigators reported that it was difficult to carry out a proper inquiry because DWP records had been purged, or not kept properly.