Nearly 10,000 people claiming benefits died in the space of a little over two years, after being declared potentially fit for work, according to new figures.
The statistics on the death rates of people claiming benefits were published by the Department for Work and Pensions  (DWP) after a lengthy battle during which the Government resisted publishing the information.
In response to freedom of information requests from campaigner and blogger Mike Sivier, work and pensions minister Iain Duncan Smith finally ordered the release of the details.
They show that between December 2011 and February 2014, 50,580 people died within 14 days of their Employment and Support Allowance claim ending. Of those 2,380 had been told they were fit for work. Another 7,200 had been put in the work-related activity group for people who had been assessed as unfit for work, but potentially able to work in the near future.
The DWP issued the figures with caveats warning that they did not provide any proof of a causal effect between benefits and mortality.  However the TUC called for an inquiry into government welfare policies. 
The DWP said a total of 81040 people had died while claiming Incapacity Benefit, Employment and Support Allowance or Severe Disability Allowance between December 2011 and February 2014.
It would not be unexpected for some claimants in these groups to die while claiming benefits as they would include people with chronic or terminal illnesses and life-limiting conditions. 
However critics said the figures provided support for anecdotal evidence of people being wrongly declared fit for work.
Meanwhile the website fullfact.org said it was 'interesting' that  the mortality rate for people placed in the work related activity group for ESA is more than twice as high as the mortality rate for the general population.
Journalist and blogger Mr Sivier said: "The DWP has strenuously asserted that “any causal effect between benefits and mortality cannot be assumed from these statistics”. It is correct to make this point.
"However, the increase in the frequency of these deaths is enough to raise questions about the way the incapacity benefit system is being run.
"For example, the work-related activity group is composed entirely of people who are expected to recover from their illnesses and be well enough to return to work within a year. In that group, there should be no deaths at all – barring accidents. Why have nearly 10,000 people lost their lives after being assigned there?"
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “We urgently need an enquiry into the government’s back-to-work regime. These disturbing findings cannot be swept under the carpet.
“The fact that more than 50 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.”
The DWP said the figures should be treated with caution, adding in its statement: "these isolated figures provide limited scope for analysis and nothing can be gained from this publication that would allow the reader to form any judgement as to the effects or impacts of the Work Capability Assessment."
A DWP spokesman added "The mortality rate for people who have died while claiming an out-of-work benefit has fallen over a 10-year period. This is in line with the mortality rate for the general working-age population.
"The Government continues to support millions of people on benefits with an £80 billion working-age welfare safety net in place."

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