Err, no Guardian, just no

Statistics released by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) on Thursday revealed that 2,380 people died between December 2011 and February 2014 within 14 days of being taken off employment and support allowance (ESA) because a work capability assessment (WCA) had concluded they were able to work.

That “because” is too strong there, don’t you think?

The numbers do not show that people died “because” the WCA showed they were fit for work now, do they?

28 comments on “Err, no Guardian, just no

  1. Seems to me that you would need to know how that compares to expected deaths in that age group.

    Also, I bet some of these we’re hit by buses etc. Unless IDS was driving I don’t think the govt to blame?

  2. I believe the “because” is intended to explain why they were taken off ESA, not why they died. Not a well constructed sentence though.

  3. Tim – I read the “because” as linking the fact they were taken off ESA because a WCA had concluded they could work – the fact they died is given in contrast to the findings of the WCA – correlation, not causation?

  4. I don’t think you can insert punctuation in to that sentence to make the correct meaning the only rational one. It needs to be completely re-written.

    Also, their approach to capitalisation is, coughs, ‘interesting’.

  5. Thanks for the link to the PDF. I took a look and the 2,380 figure is actually for:

    “…we have identified those whose date of death is
    up to 14 days after the claim end date for ESA and up to 42 days for IB/SDA”

    I don’t know the proportions of people who were on ESA versus IB/SDA but it does seem a bit remiss of the Guardian to miss off the 42 days part. I guess that spoils their story a bit?

  6. We need an explanation for the 2380. The numbers are either people who died whilst on the benefit who had been found fit to work (long appeals process maybe?). Which could just be explained by mortality rates even if people were fit when assessed. Or people who died with 14 days of having the benefit stopped. Which would be more worrying as would suggest either very ill people were being found fit for work, or they were topping themselves. Not clear from the information.

  7. @jamesg: see the analysis on the other thread. Statistically, there’s only a delta of +20% with the 18-65 population, and if the bulk of the people are in the age tranche 40-64, then there’s a delta of -23%, so the mortality is LESS than the general population.

    I suspect that, once corrected for age, the vast majority of people in this 2380 figure would statistically have died anyway, so there’s little or no “statistically surplus deaths” in the figure.

  8. So that’s three per day for the period. Questions that remain: how many were taken off benefits in total? How many who were not taken off benefits died? What is the expected mortality in the cohort? How did Iain Duncan-Smith find the time to personally garrote all those people?

  9. I think the 14 days figure makes the whole thing nonsense. It is absolutely true that some people are so ill that being made to work would kill them. But, firstly, I doubt such people are being taken off ESA; I would expect those being taken off to be the borderline cases. Secondly, even if such people are taken off ESA, they’ve then got to find work. Going from being on benefits to having a job within two weeks is impressively fast; going from being on benefits to having been in work for so long that it’s literally killed you within two weeks is frankly impossible. Which touches on the third point: even those who are so ill that working will kill them are not so ill that it will kill them instantly. What would happen is that their health would degrade slowly and their lifespan would be shortened.

    These figures would be more convincing if they were, say, “within a year”; “within ten years”, far more so. But “within two weeks”? Please.

    An acquaintance of mine, who died this year, had polio when she was three and was left able to move her head and one hand for the rest of her life. She needed carers every day to get her out of bed, wash her, put her in her wheelchair, empty her bag, etc. And she worked until retirement, after which she lived off the pension she had earned. I would be interested to read the cases of people so much more ill than her that working for a fortnight can kill them, when working for forty years didn’t kill her.

  10. @S2,

    It’s got so bad that they’re making Steven Hawking keep working, and he’s 73 already. The b@stards.

  11. A friends father found out he had cancer and died a week later. He was ‘fit’ for work up until a week before he died.

    The thing is that often terminally ill people are fit for work. Whether terminally ill people should recieve benefits to enjoy their last months without working is a different matter but I think the G is confusing things.

  12. It can’t be too bad, or Mr. Patrick Butler Social Policy Editor would take out his wallet and help these dying people. What a cold heart he is.

  13. Thanks to abacab, we now know that 113 times as many people on IB/SDA who were *not* deemed fit to work died as those who were deemed fit for work. For ESA it was a mere 21 times as many deemed *not* fit for work as deemed fit for work.

    Those are quite staggering ratios – those deemed “fit to work” who died are almost certainly within random variations.

    It is possible that the ATOS testers got their judgements warped by seeing so many terminally ill people.

  14. Also there’s something important we need to know- how many of those receiving the benefit had been out of work due to addiction to drink, drugs, prescription meds? Sudden death is not exactly unknown among that population.

  15. Good point on terminal illness, my father too only lived 3 weeks after his cancer diagnosis and my mother in law 2 months after hers. Before that both fit and working, sometimes stuff isn’t identified or affect you until very late. Look at the stats for pancreatic cancer which is difficult to spot early and has very few effective treatment options.
    John, Interesting point on terminal conditions and benefits to help them get the most out of their last months. We expect the govt to help with births in terms of statutory time off and benefits, maybe we should be looking at the other end of the scale and some form of statutory terminal benefit/right to extended leave for families. I know there is a carers be for, but that is more for long term issues I believe.

  16. It may just be a badly-constructed sentence. But it could also be a dog-whistle, designed to appeal to the prejudices of Guardian readers by implying that evil Tory cuts are directly killing the poor.

  17. @ Bloke not in Cymru
    Good idea but I doubt that it is politically feasible (as you only know when someone is going to die a few minutes ahead of the event).

    What we currently have is an awful lot of charitable fund-raising for hospices and, in most cases, sensible employers granting paid leave. Government is negligible and if someone terminally ill applied for ESA they would be dead before their application was processed.

    Carer’s benefit is a pittance and only given to those earning nil/trivial amounts, so is only of real use if you have a partner in work and are caring for aged parent – it isn’t given to pensioners who are a majority of those caring for partners awaiting death.

  18. @ Monty
    Prescription meds are supposed to *reduce* the likelihood of sudden death.
    You have obviously missed abacab’s and my posts noting that the number of IB/DSA who were *not* declared fit for work who died was 113 times (yes, that is over 11,000%) as many as those who died who were declared “fit for work”. You don’t need any special factors to account for a death rate of less than 1% of that of the control group – random fluctuations such as being run over, heart attack running for a bus or away from a car jumping the lights when crossing the road etc are ample.

  19. The unspoken conclusion seems to be the oft-stated assumption that sick people are being deprived of benefits and made to work, with terrible consequences.

    Does anyone else remember that one of the left’s favourite accusations was that unemployment figures were being deliberately understated because the government was classifying people as invalids rather than unemployed?

    In that case, you would imagine that the left would be happy if some of these people were reclassified to remedy the previous falsification. Alas, the left’s victim mentality means that it now has to claim that all these people were too sick to work after all.

  20. Think you’ve misread this, Tim. They were taken off ESA “because” they were found fit to work.

    Mind you it’s a terribly badly-written sentence. Guardian subs are the correct target here – though that’s a lost cause.

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