Welfare cuts: Statistics watchdog urges Government to release clear information on benefits sanctions

The Department has resisted calls to reveal how many people have died after having benefits sanctioned

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The UK’s statistics watchdog has called on the Department of Work and Pensions to give “objective and impartial” information on benefits sanctions, it has been reported.

The Guardian reports that Sir Andrew Dilnot, Chief of the UK Statistics Authority, is to write to the department’s leading statistician to request that they publish a greater volume of data in a clearer manner.

Iain Duncan Smith has been heavily criticised for delaying the release of statistics on the number of benefit claimants who have died after having their benefits sanctioned, or stopped.

In 2012 the Government responded to journalists' requests to release mortality data on disability benefit claimants who died, including after being found fit to work.

The figures caused negative publicity for the Government at the time; no further statistics have been released.

The DWP was asked to to release the latest stats this April, under the Freedom of Information Act, which requires a response within 20 days.

The request was denied by the Government, but the Information Commissioner transparency watchdog overruled Whitehall and said there was no good reason for the statistics not to be published now.

Last month, the department said that the data would be published “in the Autumn”, but did not give a more specific time frame.

Nearly a quarter of a million people have signed a petition asking the Government to publish figures.

Employment Minister Priti Patel has defended the department, telling the House of Commons: “The Government intends to publish mortality statistics but before doing so they need to meet the high standards expected of official statistics. Once we have completed that important work we will publish them.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Work and Pensions told The Independent: “We regularly review how we produce and publish official statistics. The Head of Profession for Statistics will look at the letter from the UKSA and consider the recommendations.”