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Thousands Died After Being Deemed "Fit For Work" By The Government

The mortality statistics were released in a report by the Department for Work and Pensions.

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Over 2,300 people died shortly after their unemployment benefits ended and they were declared "fit for work" between 2011 and 2014, according to figures released today.

The figures, released in a report by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) today, looked at those who have died after claiming employment and support allowance (ESA), incapacity benefit (IB), or severe disablement allowance.

The report showed that more than 2,300 people died after losing their claim for ESA and being declared "fit for work" between December 2011 and February 2014.

However, the DWP insisted it was impossible to establish a direct link between people losing benefits and dying as they do not hold information on the cause of death, meaning any "causal effect" between benefits and mortality "cannot be assumed from these statistics."

It also stressed that the mortality rate of those on incapacity benefits was "in line with the mortality rate for the general working-age population" and stated the mortality rate for out-of-work benefit claimants of working age has fallen between 2003 and 2013.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady called these findings "disturbing" and has called for an "urgent" inquiry into the government's back-to-work regime.

"The fact that more than 80 people are dying each month shortly after being declared 'fit for work' should concern us all. We need a welfare system that supports people to find decent jobs, not one that causes stress and ill health," O'Grady said.

The DWP figures showed that 40,000 people – from a total of more than 2 million – died between 1 May 2010 and 28 February 2013 after having their capability to work assessed by government agencies.

Earlier this week, work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith admitted that ESA is in need of reform.

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The release of the statistics follows a report that the DWP issued guidance to its staff on how to deal with suicidal benefits claimants who have been denied welfare payments.

Following recent changes to welfare reforms, the Sunday Herald reported that frontline staff have been provided with a six-point plan detailing how to talk to claimants who threaten to harm or kill themselves.

In one of the points, staff are told that although they may have "thoughts and feelings" about dealing with suicidal claimants, it's "all part of the process of coping with the experience and is normal".

Rossalyn Warren is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Rossalyn Warren at rossalyn.warren@buzzfeed.com.

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