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Thursday, 25 October 2012

We don't know (care) how many people have died

“Tom Greatrex: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to the answer of 27 June 2012, Official Report, column 1098W, on work capability assessment: appeals, how many people found fit for work under the work capability assessment have subsequently died within (a) three, (b) six and (c) 12 months of the assessment decision in (i) Scotland and (ii) the UK. [122403]
Mr Hoban: The information requested is not available.  Data on the number of ESA claimants that have died following a Fit for Work decision are not available, as the Department does not hold information on a death if the person has already left benefit.”

One would have thought that prior to the WCA implementation a full risk assessment would have been undertaken and likewise for every major change to it since.  It was not.  There have been odd RAs since in odd areas, but they have all (deliberately?) omitted the greatest risk of all.  Risk assessment and impact analysis sit side by side and one is looking for combinations of risk & impact that are high – they do not both individually need to be high. 
Amongst a variety of risks is the obvious risk of getting an assessment wrong (it will never be 100% accurate).  However small the risk was perceived to be, the subsequent impact could be momentous – someone dies, so on any scale using any criteria or any management philosophy this possibility would appear high on the risk management matrix.  The only theoretical situation where is would not be the case is where the risk of a wrong assessment could be genuinely judged as zero.
Having comprehensively assessed the risk, good management practice would then evolve a plan to mitigate it, both in the sense of minimising both parameters ongoing, together with a contingency plan to ensure ‘failures’ are dealt with effectively.  To do this one does of course need the appropriate information, most particularly the feedback on ‘failures’, so that causes can be identified and the process adapted to avoid repetition.  This is simply learning from one’s mistakes which is apparently a cornerstone philosophy of both the DWP service charter and the Civil Service Code.  In the private sector, this approach is regularly taken when there is just a few quid at stake let alone lives.
However, not necessary here it seems.  A person dying is bad enough, but the Government’s demonstrable lack of concern or interest is the real indictment and undoubtedly an unforgivable dereliction of duty.  This is what they must answer for.


Jayne said...

Well someone has been telling you porky pies - please see following FOI Request results ;)

Tia Junior said...

Not so – this report is not measuring the same thing.
What Tom Greatrex wanted to highlight is that despite the fact that the Government knows the WCA is far from foolproof and as a direct result it has declared people fit for work wrongly, they make no attempt to track the consequences, which in this case could not be more disastrous – people have died.
It’s all very well talking about risk, but in some cases the consequences of an error are so severe that any level of risk is unacceptable. In situations like this, a civilised society accepts that in designing a process that obviates this risk, it lets some people off scot-free also wrongly. Wrongly classifying someone as UNFIT for work is nowhere near as serious as wrongly classifying someone as FIT foe work in terms of potential consequences – one just costs a few quid, the other can result in a death. This is precisely the reasoning that we got rid of capital punishment.
The only explanation is that the Government does not care – they do not measure because they are not interested. Whatever the consequences, no matter how many lives are lost, the (desired) end justifies the means and these deaths are unavoidable and acceptable collateral damage. This is a statement of political philosophy, NOT a statement of fact - deaths could be near eliminated if the will existed.
Clearly it is in the Governments own best interests to create the impression that there are no alternatives.