Mortality Statistics: What you need to know


Yesterday the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) released statistics relating to those who have died after claiming Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Incapacity Benefit (IB) or Severe Disablement Allowance (SDA). The figures have been released in response to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, and have a particular focus on those who have undertaken a Work Capability Assessment (WCA).

What do the figures show?

The figures reveal the mortality rate amongst those on ESA, IB and SDA. In addition, the DWP also published figures revealing the numbers who had died with a year of their Work Capability Assessment since May 2010.

These are the raw statistics:

Between 1 May 2010 and 28 February 2013, a total of 40,680 people have died within a year of having undergone a WCA 81,140 people who died during the same time period had left IB/SDA (30,560) and ESA (50,580). For those that left ESA, 7,540 were in the Assessment Phase, 7,200 in the Work Related Activity Group, 32,530 in the Support Group and 3,320 unknown 2,380 people who came off of ESA and were deemed as “fit to work” died between December 2011 and February 2014, 270 who came off of IB/SDA and deemed as “fit to work” died over the same period.

The statistics also revealed that 1,340 who had left ESA, and 20 who had left IB/SDA and appealed against a WCA decision of “fit to work” had died during the same period. Between 2012 and 2013 the number of people on ESA rose by 80% from 537,000 to 971,000.

What does it all mean?

The first thing to note is that it would be wrong to imply from this that the deaths were caused by the withdrawal of ESA or IB/SDA, or as a result of a “fit to work” decision from a WCA. The statistics do look shocking. However, as they do not explore the cause of death there is no way that a link can be made from these statistics. 

Further analysis reveals some other factors that should also be considered. For example, while the mortality rate (measured as deaths per 100,000 of the population) is twice as high for ESA claimants compared to the general public (530 versus 240), for those on Jobseeker’s Allowance it is almost half (140) compared to the general public. 

The statistics ask more questions than they answer and will seemingly only increase calls on the DWP to provide more transparency with their figures.


Simon Hopkins, Chief Executive of Turn2us, commented: “These statistics highlight that there must be maximum transparency in the impact that the withdrawal of ESA and other support has on those who are struggling financially. In addition, whilst the figures do not show withdrawal of support as a contributory factor to these higher mortality rates, we would urge the government to do more to investigate this hypothesis. Organisations like us that support people in financial hardship need as much information as possible to ensure we can target our help to those who need it."

"Anyone who is concerned about their situation should visit to check their entitlements and see if they might be eligible for financial assistance in the form of a charitable grant.”

Publication date: 28 August 2015