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The Department

The Department

How a Violent Government Bureaucracy Killed Hundreds and Hid the Evidence

by John Pring

A thoroughly researched exposé of the bureaucratic violence and hostility of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) over the last 30 years

'A must-read exposé of one of Britain's biggest hidden scandals' - Frances Ryan

'Definitive proof of how government austerity hasn't just harmed disabled people, it has killed them' - John McDonnell MP

In the early 2010s, reports began to emerge of deaths linked to a government department. Suicide notes, coroners' reports, and research by disabled activists pointed to failings within the Department for Work and Pensions – the DWP – the government body responsible for the disability benefits system.

As years passed, and austerity tightened its grip, the death toll mounted, and an even more disturbing picture emerged: bureaucracy, politicians, and the private sector had combined over thirty years to reckless, deadly effect.

For the last decade, disabled journalist John Pring has meticulously pieced together how the DWP ignored pleas to correct fatal flaws in the social security system and covered up its role in the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of disabled people. Having spent years researching the heartbreaking stories of twelve individuals who died, he describes how their bereaved families have fought for justice and accountability.

John Pring is founder and editor of the news agency Disability News Service. He is co-creator of the Deaths by Welfare timeline, and co-editor and specialist advisor on the award-winning Museum of Austerity project. He has written for mainstream publications including the Guardian, Observer, Daily Mirror and Private Eye, and was associate producer on the award-winning Dispatches documentary, The Truth About Disability Benefits. He is also the author of Longcare Survivors: The Biography of a Care Scandal.

'This intensive research is the definitive detailed proof of how government austerity hasn’t just harmed disabled people, it has killed them. What is shocking is that government ministers knew the brutality of the system was causing such a loss of life and did nothing. John Pring’s exposé of this killer system forms the charge sheet against the policy makers who inflicted this inhumane system on the most vulnerable in our society.'

- John McDonnell MP

'A must read expose of one of Britain’s biggest hidden scandals. Every politician, civil servant and journalist in the country should have this on their bookshelf.'

- Frances Ryan, Guardian journalist and author of Crippled: Austerity and the Demonisation of Disabled People

'John Pring’s indefatigable research has revealed how successive Conservative, Labour, and Coalition governments have not only failed to provide the money, help, resources, and understanding that disabled people need, they have gone to great lengths to hide the truth about what they have done. It would be a strong person who could read this disturbing book in a sitting. But it must be read.'

- Paul Lewis, freelance financial journalist and presenter of Money Box, Radio 4

'Like a dark whodunnit, where a Government department is the killer, John Pring's The Department is a vital must-read book. Written by someone who has played a central role in uncovering how welfare reform kills disabled people, The Department comes out of over a decade of painstaking research and interviews with families whose loved ones have died. Pring heartbreakingly shows how policy signed off in Whitehall can end someone's life miles away in distance and time. The book is an essential history and a call for action and solidarity right now.'

- China Mills, Disability Justice Lead, Healing Justice London

'No other journalist has done as much over the past 14 years to shed light on the multiple injustices directed at disabled people in the UK as a result of austerity and so-called 'welfare reform'. John's book is a 'must read' for anyone who seeks the truth.'

- Mary O'Hara, author of Austerity Bites: A Journey to the Sharp End of Cuts in the UK

'An urgent book that tells of the injustice, hostility and violence levelled at disabled people, by government departments responsible for their welfare. The scapegoating and stigma orchestrated by Conservative and Labour governments from the 1990s up to the current austerity reforms is shocking, and Pring’s accounts of those most affected will leave you feeling sad and enraged. This book is a long time coming and will have enormous relevance for years to come, as governments try to enforce more budgetary cuts with the same ideological hostility levelled at disabled people.'

- Victoria Cooper, co-editor of The Violence of Austerity

'The Department is an expertly crafted, vigorously researched response to the gas-lighting endured by disabled benefit claimants at the hands of government and the DWP for the past 14 years. Pring, a journalist who is regarded within the disability community as a modern-day hero for his relentless pursuit of truth and justice, sensitively describes the terrible human cost of a social security system turned violent bureaucracy and gives voices to its victims. In also exposing the key players and decisions involved in causing and concealing mass harm, this book is a powerful call to arms for all decent human beings.'

- Ellen Clifford, author of The War on Disabled People

Preface: The death of Philippa Day
Part I: 1989-1997: Peter Lilley, incapacity benefits and how ill-health became a luxury
1. The first memo
2. A promising area for cuts, and the first steps to violence
3. ‘Ignorant’ ministers, the insurance industry, and Lilley’s little list
4. Scapegoats, the all work test, and how ill-health became a luxury
5. Periodic purges, Unum and selective use of evidence
6. The death of David Holmes, and the causal link
Part II: 1997-2010: DWP, New Labour and the ‘reckless’ work capability assessment
7. Labour’s change of tone, Atos, and a failed rebellion
8. The Woodstock conference, ‘malingering’ and an outlaw company
9. A groundswell of unease
10. The death of Stephen Carré
Part III: 2010-2014: The coalition, austerity, and deaths by welfare
11. Atos, activism, and the climate of panic
12. The death of David Clapson
13. The death of Mark Wood
14. The death of David Barr
15. The death of Ms DE
16. DWP, peer reviews, and weaponising time
17. The death of Faiza Ahmed
Part IV: 2014-2022: Cover-up, investigations, and the truth about DWP
18. Michael O’Sullivan, and the prevention of future deaths
19. Iain Duncan Smith, the UN and 590 suicides
20. The death of Jodey Whiting
21. The death of James Oliver
22. Philippa Day’s inquest and the 28 ‘problems’
23. The death of Errol Graham
24. The death of Roy Curtis

Published by Pluto Press in Aug 2024
Paperback ISBN: 9780745349893
eBook ISBN: 9780745349909

140mm x 216mm