DWP ducks behind cost when quizzed over claimant deaths

Minister with form for citing cost denies answers again.

The DWP claims it costs too much to say how many Work Capability Assessment claimants have died over the past year – having been found fit for work.

DWP minister Justin Tomlinson responded to a related written Commons question from Labour’s Liam Byrne with: “The information requested is not readily available and to provide it would incur disproportionate cost.”

The response from Tomlinson follows an all-too-familiar pattern – trailed by 24housing – of opposition MPs being ‘short changed’ on welfare questions raised in the Commons that the DWP claimed were too expensive to answer.

Commenting on death rates, Tomlinson first ducked behind “disproportionate cost” in April when Labour’s Madeleine Moon asked how many Universal Credit attendance allowance and employment support allowance claimants had died within six months of seeing applications rejected.

In July, Labour’s Debbie Abrahams directly accused the DWP of “incompetence or cover-up” over the way it handled benefit claimants’ deaths, referencing two independent reviews into the so-called Work Capability Assessment in 2013 and 2014.

A damning Work and Pensions Committee report into the benefit cap branded Tomlinson “flippant”, and he had to apologise to Parliament for errors he made during a Commons debate on the cap.

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