Comic Relief has raised a record amount of money this year, as part of its efforts to create “a just world free from poverty”: £75 million and counting. There are a lot of people who will not be helped by this.
“News of the death of Karen Sherlock, from a suspected heart attack – the woman invited to get up from her wheelchair and get back to work – has shocked the disability community around the country”. Karen Sherlock had been declared fit and healthy following a Work Capability Assessment, and her financial support had been stopped.
“Fears over losing his incapacity benefits and concerns about his health led a Whitehaven father-of-two to take his own life, an inquest has ruled. Carl Payne, 42, was found dead in remote woodland in Ennerdale on August 7 last year having taken a fatal overdose. A message saying “sorry, I love you” to his family was found in his pocket. An inquest heard yesterday that Mr Payne, of Hilltop Road, Kells, was struggling with various medical conditions which prevented him from working. He was also anxious at having received a letter from Jobcentre Plus to inform him that the government was to carry out a national review of the benefits system…. Coroner David Roberts concluded: “It is clear that he was worried that his benefits would be affected, and although he had no immediate financial worries and plenty of family support, he was perhaps concerned about depending too much on his family.”
“Colin Traynor suffered grand mal epilepsy from the age of 14 months and despite medication the condition was never controlled, Oldham West and Royton MP Michael Meacher told the Commons. Mr Traynor was assessed as fit for work in the Government’s overhaul of the benefits system, but died less than four months later. The Labour MP called for the medical assessments of a person’s ability to work, carried out by Atos, to be suspended.
Mr Meacher said: “There are some particularly disturbing aspects of Colin’s treatment at the hands of Atos Healthcare and the Department for Work and Pensions that deserve official attention and reform.” In August 2011 he attended an Atos health assessment and was told his incapacity benefit was to be cut by £70 a week, which caused him great stress, Mr Meacher related. He was told an appeal could take nine months and nothing more could be done in the meantime. “From December 2011 to April, Colin’s health deteriorated, his seizures increased due to the stress and he also lost a lot of weight,” said Mr Meacher. “On April 3 the stress and anxiety resulted in a massive seizure and it took his life.” Tragically, after his death Colin’s mother contacted the Department of Work and Pensions and was told the decision had been overturned; her son should never have been assessed.”
“An unemployed man taken to court over debts was found hanged in his nephew’s cellar, an inquest was told. Stephen Cawthra, 55, was discovered by his nephew Liam Cawthra on October 1 last year. Mr Cawthra found his uncle when he went to check money had been put in the electricity meter at the home they shared in Glendare Road, Lidget Green. Stephen Cawthra, who was an out-of-work engineer, had previously told family about money worries, the Bradford hearing was told yesterday. His benefits had been stopped and he had got into debt but his situation had later been reassessed and benefits restarted.”
“A ‘vulnerable’ disabled man who took his own life felt pressurised by changes to the benefits system, says his partner. Christine Graham discovered Peter Hodgson dead at his home just a day after he received a text telling him to attend the Job Centre. “After the text, he just said: ‘I give up’,” said Christine, who was with Peter for 13 years. “I didn’t realise then just what he meant.” Mr Hodgson, 49, of Cleator Moor,was unable to work after he suffered a brain haemorrhage and a stroke and had his leg fused following a football injury. He had previous worked as a life-guard and at Brannan’s Thermometers…. “He was terrified they would stop his money as he had four loans. He couldn’t handle stress and would worry’.”
“Kieran McArdle told the Daily Record in a harrowing letter how his father Brian, 57, collapsed and died the day after his disability benefits were stopped. He had been assessed by Atos and deemed “fit for work”. The youngster said a previous stroke on Boxing Day last year had caused a blood clot on Brian’s brain. He was left paralysed down his left side, unable to speak properly, blind in one eye and barely able to eat or dress. But he was still summoned to an Atos “work capability assessment” – part of the Con-Dem Government’s drive to cut billions from the welfare bill. Kieran says he had another stroke days before his appointment because of stress, but was still determined to attend. A month later, former security guard Brian got a letter telling him he would lose his disability benefits on September 26. Kieran said his dad’s health went rapidly downhill. He believes constant worry about how he would survive without the cash he needed robbed Brian of the will to live. The day after his benefits were stopped, Brian collapsed and died in the street near his home in Larkhall, Lanarkshire. He had suffered a heart attack.”
“A dad whose son died of pneumonia just six weeks after his incapacity benefits were axed is fighting to have the decision overturned. Mark Scott, 46, who suffered from anxiety, epilepsy and chronic alcoholism, was left penniless when jobcentre doctors said he was fit to work. He died on January 26 in the Southport flat where he lived alone. Dad Cliff, from Formby, told the ECHO that his son sank into a “deep depression” after being stripped of the disability living allowance and housing benefit in December.”
“A schizophrenic city man who was turning his life around killed himself after becoming worried at having to return to work, an inquest heard. Martin Rust, 36, was declared fit to work following a Department of Work and Pensions assessment in September, two months before he was found dead at his home in Parmentergate Court in the city centre on November 21… Coroner William Armstrong said the DWP’s decision “caused distress and may well have had an adverse effect”, recording that Mr Rust had committed suicide while suffering from a treatment-resistant mental illness.”
“A man who had ‘significant worries’ was found hanging in his home by a neighbour, a Burnley inquest heard…Neighbour Kevin Martin said the last time he saw Mr Monk he was worried that his benefits had been cut.”
“A desperate man who lined up three kitchen knives before stabbing himself twice in the heart, blamed cuts in housing benefit. Unemployed Richard Sanderson took his own life after writing three suicide notes which were laid out neatly on a bed in a meticulously planned act. In one to his wife he wrote: “Don’t come into the bathroom, this time I will most certainly be deceased”. Mr Sanderson, who said he could not face the thought of his family being homeless, stabbed himself twice in the heart with a kitchen knife on May 29 at home in Augustus Road, Southfields, after years of being unable to find work finally took its toll, an inquest heard…After returning a verdict of suicide at Westminster Coroner’s Court on Tuesday, August 23, Dr Fiona Wilcox said: “What I find particularly tragic in this case is this act appears to be pursued by a man who was not suffering from an illness and appears to have made a considered act in response to his inability to find employment. “The fact his housing benefit was about to be cut and the family would be at risk of having nowhere to live, and being ordered to give up his training course because of the Job Centre’s rules, would appear to be especially poignant and tragic.”
“A Birmingham dad died from a serious heart condition – weeks after Government assessors stopped his benefits and ruled he was fit for work. Paul Turner, 52, from Erdington, was ordered to find a job in February following a medical review with doctors. But he died on April 2 from ischaemic heart disease – caused, his family claim, by the stress of losing his benefits. The dad-of-one was medically retired from his job as a stores manager for West Midlands Travel in 2000 after he suffered a heart attack. He later had to undergo a double bypass because of the condition. Mr Turner, who also had angina, was claiming around £400 per month incapacity benefit until he was called in for a review at the Midlands Disability Benefits Centre in Five Ways in January. Three weeks later he received a letter stating he was not entitled to the new Employment and Support Allowance, the controversial new payment that has replaced Incapacity Benefit.”
“I have a sister who suffers from psychosis and bipolar and I have spent the last ten years trying to help her. Until recently no one in our family was aware that another sister had also developed this awful condition. My younger sister’s illness developed quickly and over the year she had gone from being a bright 32 year old professional to a withdrawn and paranoid, scared person. She had moved house during this time and had also lost her job. During this time we could not find out where she lived…
We learnt that she had attended the job centre on a number of occasions asking for help and had also asked her doctor for a sick note but was refused. In her desperation she became frantic, the doctor then phoned the police and said she would commit her under the mental health act. She was held for a night in a prison cell because of an argument over a sick note…Her illness was being exasperated by the fact that she had no food and electricity at home and that she was being dealt with very insensitively by the job centre. It is very sad that up until her death, my sister felt hounded and traumatized by the fact that she was imprisoned. She was afraid that it would happen again, so she hid her illness very well from others and very rarely ventured outside her home. She only attended the job centre when she was over her mania, which was cyclical and without a sick note no-one at the job centre would believe she was ill enough not to work…My sister is very independent and strong willed. She was up until her illness a very successful programmer and had always earned her own way through life. The loss of her job brought on by her illness was not something she would admit too easily, and the shock of being imprisoned was something she never got over. In September 2010 we received a phone call from the foreign office in Portugal telling us that our little sister had committed suicide.”
“A mum-of-two devastated by the loss of her council job hanged herself hours after receiving her final redundancy notice. Linda Knott, 46, had worked as a supervisor at the Brierley Community Centre in Little Hulton for 16 years before it fell victim to spending cuts.The news tipped her into depression and she had already taken an overdose of pills eight days before she was found dead at her home in Walkden, just before 5pm on May 13.”
“A bright 21-year-old killed herself after more than 200 unsuccessful job applications. Vicky Harrison had dreamed of a career as a teacher or a television producer, but gave up hope for the future, her family said yesterday. A day after her latest rejection, and on the eve of her fortnightly trip to sign on, she wrote heartbreaking notes to her parents and boyfriend saying ‘I don’t want to be me any more’ and took a huge drug overdose.”
“A married couple have been found dead in their Bedworth home following an apparent tragic suicide pact. Mark and Helen Mullins were found lying side by side in their home in Henson Road, Bedworth. Friends have spoken of the tragic couple’s struggle to access the correct benefits – leaving them living “hand to mouth” on food handouts from a Coventry soup kitchen which they walked five miles to each week.”
“A dad-of-two was killed by the stress of facing the Government’s tough new medical test for benefit claimants, say his grieving family. David Groves, 56, died of a massive heart attack the night before his medical as he scoured the internet for ways to raise cash in case he lost his entitlement. He had claimed incapacity benefit for three years after doctors ordered him to stop working following a heart attack and several strokes. His widow Sandra, 57, said being lumped in with “dole scroungers” and the fear of financial hardship had a devastating effect. David – who worked for 40 years as a miner and telecoms engineer – had already gone through a stressful eight-month appeal process to keep his £91-a-week benefits.”
“A man who is suffering from horrendous blood clots and open ulcers has lost his disability benefits – after job centre doctors labelled him fit for work. James Major, 33, struggles to walk, and has been told by specialists at two hospitals he would be risking his life if he went back to work. ‘I started claiming sick benefit because I obviously couldn’t work. After this I went for a medical at the Job Centre and failed it, but the doctor there said I was fit enough to work. At the time I could only walk with crutches. ‘I was told that I would have to claim Job Seekers Allowance (JSA). But when I went to sign up for JSA, the staff there said I was clearly not able to work so I couldn’t claim. ‘I didn’t have a choice but to go back to sea.’
But being on his feet all the time only worsened his condition, and he went on to develop septicaemia. After his second dash back to land, he tried to claim again, but was told the same as he was the previous time. ‘I was advised to take legal action because of the situation and we won at a tribunal. I was ecstatic and we also got some money backdated.’ Although the situation was resolved for a few months, Mr Major then had to go for a routine medical review which once again deemed him fit for work. He added: ‘But I failed the medical and I am now back at square one. I now have to appeal again like the first time round.”
“I have in my hand a genuine suicide note from a constituent of mine who, sadly, took his own life after he was informed that he was no longer entitled to employment and support allowance and disability benefits. Across the UK, more than 1,000 people have died only months after being told to find work. This is 2012—we are supposed to be a civilised society. We should be looking after disabled citizens in the UK. Will the Prime Minister listen to the 62,000 people who have signed Pat’s petition and please finally order an assessment of all changes hitting disabled people in this country?”
- Ian Lavery, MP for Wansbeck.
“A woman found dead in a drain had been worried about attending a medical appointment to assess disability benefits, an inquest heard. The body of Elaine Christian, 57, was found in Holderness Drain by a mother returning from a school run. A post mortem revealed she had died from drowning, despite having more than ten self-inflicted cuts on her wrists. The inquest in Hull was told Mrs Christian had been worrying about a meeting she was due to have to discuss her entitlement to disability benefits. Her spiralling health problems meant she had to give up her job at Cooplands bakery in Greenwich Avenue, where she was described as a cheerful, hardworking and trusted staff member. Her husband Robert’s model shop business in Holderness Road, east Hull, had recently collapsed, plunging the couple into financial difficulties. As a result, the couple were being forced to sell Mrs Christian’s childhood home in Staveley Road, Bilton Grange.”
“Stephen Hill was sent to his first Work Capability Assessment in 2010 when he gave up his job as a sandwich delivery man after being referred for tests on his heart. His wife Denise, who was with him at the assessment, said: “She checked him out. She did his blood pressure and his heart and said to see a doctor as soon as possible.” Despite the assessor telling Mr Hill to seek urgent medical advice, he was still found fit for work. In the meantime doctors had diagnosed him with heart failure. He won his appeal but he was ordered to attend another assessment.
“He got a letter for another medical and I couldn’t believe it,” said Mrs Hill. “He’d got to go for a medical when he was waiting for a heart operation.” But he was again declared fit for work, with the assessor declaring: “Significant disability due to cardiovascular problems seems unlikely.”
Mr Hill died of a heart attack five weeks later.
“A pregnant woman jumped to her death while clutching her baby son after her benefits had been stopped, an inquest heard. Philosophy graduate Christelle Pardo, 32, plunged from the balcony of her sister’s third-floor flat, killing herself and five-month-old Kayjah. Miss Pardo had been claiming Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) since shortly after leaving London Metropolitan University in May 2008.
She became pregnant shortly afterwards, but in December her JSA was withdrawn because she was within 11 weeks of giving birth and was considered unable to work. As a result she also lost her automatic entitlement to housing benefit. The mother, from Hackney, east London, was advised to apply for income support but her application was rejected because the Department of Work and Pensions said she had not proved that she had been in continuous employment in the UK for the previous five years. This was despite having worked or been a student in Britain since 1997.
In April, her application for child benefit was also rejected when officials learned she had been denied income support. Hackney council then demanded she repay £200 in overpaid housing benefit. Two further appeals for income support were rejected and when Miss Pardo tried to take the Department of Works to a tribunal she repeatedly failed to be given a date for a hearing. Her last phone call to the DWP was on Friday June 12 this year, the day before she committed suicide and killed her son.”
“A man with mental health problems who was worried about benefit cuts killed himself while he was searching for a job on the south coast, an inquest heard. Paul Willcoxson, 33, was found hanging in Pignals Enclosure, near Hollands Wood campsite, Lyndhurst, by walkers on April 14… A suicide letter and next of kin note were found in which he expressed concerns about Government cuts, Southampton Coroner’s Court heard.”
“Friends of an acclaimed Scottish writer have accused the new government’s crackdown on welfare benefits of being a factor in his suicide. Paul Reekie, who, along with Irvine Welsh, was part of a wave of young Scottish authors who rose to international prominence in the 1990s, killed himself in his Edinburgh home last month. The Leith-based writer and poet, who was 48, left no suicide note but friends say letters informing him that his welfare benefits were to be halted were found close to his body.”
“Heartbroken loved ones of missing Leanne Chambers are today waking up to the news that she is never coming home again. Police have confirmed a body found in the River Wear five weeks ago is that of the 30-year-old, who disappeared five months ago… The sales coordinator, who had battled depression for a number of years, had taken a turn for the worse after receiving a letter telling her she had to be assessed by a doctor to see if she was fit to return to work.”
“…in September 2010, I had a brain haemorrhage. This caused a severe stroke that left me cognitively and visually impaired, doubly incontinent and totally paralysed on my left side. The prognosis was that I would need 24/7 care for the rest of my life. I was 50 and my youngest child was aged just 12 years… The day after I was discharged I began the first of many telephone calls to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) as I hadn’t received the expected benefits. Calls were never answered promptly; I frequently spent 20 minutes on hold. Hour-long calls were the norm. Just making one or two phone calls a day was exhausting and draining. I was politely informed that my benefit had been stopped as my medical certificate had expired. I had not been aware of the need for any medical certificate… I then received an appointment to attend my Atos Healthcare work capability assessment (WCA). I contacted Atos to explain my condition and that I couldn’t get to the appointment as I couldn’t leave the house on my own. Innocently, I didn’t give the matter another thought, until I received a letter accusing me of failing to attend my WCA and informing me that I was deemed fit for work and placed in the work-related activity group… DWP advisers came to my home to conduct my back-to-work interview. I would have to attend at least five work support sessions, such as helping me to write a CV, interview practice and one to identify my training needs. The training was limited to NVQ level 2 (pre-stroke, I had begun a PhD).”
“A desperate job seeker set himself alight outside a Birmingham Jobcentre in an alleged row over his benefit payments.”
“A woman awaiting colostomy reversal surgery following the removal of her bowel and intestines says she is has been left suicidal after her benefits were cut by £65 in the recent shake up of the benefits system. Sandra Wells, who lives with her partner and carer Tony Jacobs in sheltered accommodation in Coleford, has to take handfuls of tablets each day and finds it difficult to move because of a hernia bigger than a football on her stomach caused by problems with a stoma following surgery.
Ms Wells, who worked as a senior care worker in charge of a team of ten before she became ill, also suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, blackouts and has a slipped disc, and says she has become increasingly depressed after being told she is no longer eligible for Disability Living Allowance (DLA).
The 55-year-old has been told she is only eligible for Income Support which means the money she receives has been cut from £280 a fortnight to £215. The cuts came only two weeks after she was deemed fit for work.”
“Readers may recall the case of Alice Traynor, a young woman who suffers from bipolar disorder and who during periods of crisis had self-harmed…last year she slashed her throat and was admitted to hospital after being informed by Atos that she was about to lose her disability living allowance and needed to undergo an assessment before she could continue to receive employment support…”
“A mining union has branded disability and sick benefit tests a “scandal” after a woman with severe health problems was judged fit for work… The latest case involves a 55-year-old miner’s wife from the Easington area, who has not been named, who was given zero disability points following her 40-minute assessment, despite suffering from sight problems, arthritis in the spine and depression. However, on appeal, which the woman had to wait 11 months for, the former machinist was awarded 24 points by the tribunal.”
“I shall cite a letter I received from a constituent, Janine, in Liverpool. Her dad was thrown off sickness benefit in November after an Atos work capability assessment and was declared fit for work despite suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Six weeks later, on Christmas day, Janine’s father died.”
– Steve Rotheram, MP for Liverpool (Walton).
“A constituent who suffers from severe cerebral palsy and could not travel was refused a home visit and told to go to Glasgow to be tested. Another constituent who was recovering after being seriously injured in an accident was advised to attend an Atos assessment in Glasgow. Both those constituents could not possibly travel because they were in so much pain, and I had to get involved and ask for a home assessment for them. It does not end there because they then had their benefits cut or stopped because Atos sent the assessment forms to the wrong address. If it cannot get the address right, what chance does it have with assessments?”
– Iain McKenzie, MP for Inverclyde.
“A cancer sufferer, who had her benefits cut by government officials who said she was fit to work, has died. Cecilia Burns, 51, from Strabane, County Tyrone, had started a campaign in February to have the decision overturned. Ms Burns had her benefits cut after she was assessed by government contractor Atos Healthcare. She had her benefits reinstated just a few weeks ago but died on Monday.”
“Several of my constituents – far too many to be isolated incidents – have told me that they were asked by the person carrying out the assessment whether they just sat around all day watching Jeremy Kyle… [A] woman in my constituency – let us call her Mrs M – left school at 16 and worked diligently for 33 years. She paid her taxes. She was made redundant a couple of years ago at just the time that she was starting to suffer from ill health. Mrs M suffers from Crohn’s disease, which has led to severe diarrhoea, incontinence and abdominal pain. She has had surgery to remove a large section of her bowel, but the symptoms are getting worse. As Members may know, there is no cure for Crohn’s disease. Mrs M will not recover. There will be a gradual and irreversible increase in the severity and frequency of her symptoms. Mrs M is a proud and dignified woman who is embarrassed by her condition. She wants to do nothing more than work, but is unable to do so. She suffers from about two bouts of diarrhoea a day, for which she has no more than a second’s notice, and she cannot leave the house unaccompanied. Mrs M was assessed as having 15 points with limited capability for work. Her assessment and appeal were degrading, insensitive and unprofessional. She was described throughout her appeal notes as a man. Incorrect dates and fictitious telephone calls were placed on her files – in other words, lies. Mrs M was told that she could wear a nappy for work.”
- Iain Wright, MP for Hartlepool
“I say to those watching today and who are genuinely sick, disabled or are retired. You have nothing to fear… This means we will have enough resources to provide peace of mind to the very vulnerable. This matters to us. This government and this party don’t regard caring for the needy as a burden. It is a proud duty to provide financial security to the most vulnerable members of our society and this will not change. This is our contract with the most vulnerable.”
- Iain Duncan Smith, State Secretary for Work and Pensions.
“Larry Newman was assessed by an Atos staff member and awarded zero points. To qualify for sickness benefit he needed 15. He died from lung problems soon after.”
“A chronic alcoholic who had previously suffered two broken hips and used a walking frame was told he was fit to work in a benefits test. Nine months later, John McGinty was dead. He was found at home by his son, surrounded by around 100 empty Special Brew cans.”
“A disabled man has been found dead on the day the Glasgow factory where he worked for 40 years closed down after government funding cuts. George Scollan, 58, had worked for Remploy, which specialises in providing work for people with disabilities, since 1973. But the factory, in Springburn, closed yesterday, with the loss of more than 40 jobs. Colleagues said he had “lived for his job” and grown “more and more depressed” about the prospect of unemployment.”
“Man found fit to work despite peeling bones: Kenny Nicol was passed as fit to work, even though after seven operations bits of his bone still peel into his flesh… He scored zero on his new Department for Work and Pensions test, carried out by Atos. The former oil worker, of Buckie, Aberdeenshire, can’t walk further than 100 yards without his joints swelling and suffers constant pain in his shoulders, hips, knees and hands.”
“A Thalidomide victim with a brain tumour who is blind in one eye and has trouble walking is battling against a decision by Atos that she is capable of “work related activity”. Martine White, 50, is due to appear at a tribunal in which she will appeal against the decision which she fears could force her to take employment or face losing up to half of her benefits.”
“Thousands of terminally ill and disabled people are being forced to repeatedly undergo assessments to see if they can go back to work. Some 2,020 MS sufferers, 440 patients with Parkinson’s disease and dozens of dementia victims have all been through multiple “work capability assessments” – which they must pass to receive their benefits. Another 16,750 people with cancer have been forced to go through the process every two years, the Department of Work and Pensions revealed to MPs yesterday.”
“Ministry of Justice figures highlighted by Panorama show that more than 176,000 cases go to appeal tribunals every year …the Government has improved the testing system following a review; however, it has expressed frustration over the success of the appeal rate. Interviewed for the Panorama programme, employment minister Chris Grayling said: “I think you have to look at why the appeals are successful. I wish the judges sometime looked beyond the first impression and thought – is it really the case that these people could not return to any form of work?”
“A blind woman has won a fight to have her benefits reinstated after she was told to get a job. Margaret Allen had to give up work because of her condition but was called up to a controversial ‘fit-to-work’ assessment – part of the government’s overhaul of the welfare system. The 49-year-old has progressive retinitis pigmentosa – a degenerative incurable disorder – and is registered blind. But an assessor ruled that she was not eligible for help and told her she must go back to work… The assessor sat there wiggling his fingers in front of my eyes to test me. I took along my blind certificate which has detailed information on it and asked if they wanted to see it – but they weren’t interested.”
“A Camberley man who has been housebound for more than two years with crippling medical problems has been told by the Government he is fit to work. Kelvin Crane, 50, was shocked to receive the news from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) when he was called in for a routine assessment of his Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) benefit on October 25 at Camberley Job Centre. He was told, despite four heart attacks, two strokes and the loss of his right leg, that he was considered to have ‘limited capability for work’ after an assessment of his circumstances on September 12, which could potentially require him to seek employment.”
“A deaf, blind and mute man was told he was fit to work by heartless benefits officials. And they told John Kerr – who is confined to a wheelchair – that his money would be axed…”
“Paul Mickleburgh, 53, has undergone a series of operations over the past 33 years, including four failed transplants, and has suffered 14 heart attacks.The father-of-three says he is the victim of changes which involve transferring tens of thousands of Scots claimants off incapacity benefit or severe disablement allowance and on to the new Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). He criticised the Government after being told to attend work-focused interviews and actively look for employment or face a cut in benefits.” …Mr Mickleburgh said he was placed in a “work-related activity group”. He added: “It’s unrealistic and unreasonable to expect me to attend these meetings when there is no realistic prospects of an improvement in my health. “I’m on dialysis three days a week and because I have been on it for so long now it takes me days to recover from it. “No-one is going to employ someone like me who is going to be off six days a week.”
“Six per cent of doctors have experienced a patient who has attempted – or committed – suicide as a result of “undergoing, or fear of undergoing” the Government’s fitness to work test”. It also found that “14 per cent had patients who had self-harmed as a result of the test.”
“Figures for the first 141,100 incapacity benefits claimants to start the reassessment process show 37 per cent of those whose claims have been concluded have been found fit for work. Employment Minister Chris Grayling said:
‘These first figures completely justify our decision to reassess all the people on incapacity benefits. To have such a high percentage who are fit for work just emphasises what a complete waste of human lives the current system has been.
We know that for many it will be a long haul back to work but it’s much better to help them on the journey than to leave them on benefits for the rest of their lives’.”
“More than half of people stripped of disability benefits after being ruled “fit for work” by Atos were left unemployed and without income, according to a Government study… Investigators from the department spoke to 1100 claimants deemed fit for work and found that 55 per cent had no jobs or benefits.Thirty per cent were getting jobseekers’ allowance or other benefits and just 15 per cent were in employment. A later, follow-up survey of 590 of the claimants revealed that 43 per cent were still jobless and without income. Twenty-eight per cent were receiving benefits and 29 per cent were in work.”
“People deemed too sick or disabled to work are being refused their benefits because the current assessment is inadequate, according to the expert appointed to review it…
Prof Malcolm Harrington, the government appointed adviser on testing welfare claimants, admitted the work fitness test was “patchy”. He said that as a result of the flaws in the 13 week assessment, which tests physical fitness as well as mental skills, some claimants who were genuinely unable to work, have suffered…
“There are certainly areas where it’s still not working and I am sorry there are people going through a system which I think still needs improvement,” he said” – July 2012
“In his third independent review occupational physician Professor Harrington has made recommendations to further improve the WCA. He found that, as improvements from the previous reviews are starting to have an impact, no fundamental reforms are needed.”
- Mark Hoban, Minister for Employment, November 2012.
“Edmund O’Leary, of Aspen Close, Epsom, has suffered from clinical depression and anxiety for six years after his job as a customer services trainer ended and his marriage broke down.The 45-year-old had been receiving £101 a week in income-support (IS) because he is unable to work. But in November last year he was informed by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) that he would have to undergo a work capability assessment to see if he was eligible for the new benefit replacing IS – the Employment Support Allowance (ESA). But to his horror the doctor who assessed him declared he was fit to work and he was informed that his benefits would be stopped on January 17. With the support of his mental health team at Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS, Mr O’Leary has now got the decision overturned at appeal.”
“Disabled benefits claimants face £71 a week fines for breaching work plan: Government wants to increase penalties for sick and disabled claimants who fail to adhere to back-to-work agreements.”
There were 11,790 conditionality sanctions applied to Employment Support Allowance claimants in the Work-related Activity Group between December 2009 –November 2010. There were 10,130 conditionality sanctions applied to Employment Support Allowance claimants in the Work-related Activity Group between December 2010 – November 2011. 44% of these sanctions were applied to people with mental health problems or behavioural disorders.
“Secret filming of training given to doctors recruited by the private company Atos to assess whether sickness and disability benefit applicants are fit for work suggests that staff are monitored to ensure they do not find excessive numbers of claimants eligible…The film also demonstrates the unease about the radically heightened eligibility criteria felt by some trainers employed by Atos to teach new recruits how to carry out the tests. It is now harder for some very severely disabled claimants to qualify for support. No matter how serious claimants problems are with their arms, for example, “as long as you’ve got one finger, and you can press a button,” they would be found fit for work, a trainer explains.”
“Nurse makes heartfelt apology after Atos forced her to trick disabled people out of benefits: Scots nurse Joyce Drummond reveals how thousands of genuinely ill people were set up for a fall before they had even been assessed by benefits firm Atos.”
“The one thing I am absolutely unreservedly and implacably opposed to in all of this is a real world test”
– Chris Grayling, Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions.
“A suicidal lorry driver who was declared ‘fit for work’ by the multinational firm Atos despite his own doctor saying it would be unsafe for him to be on the roads has won his appeal against a decision to strip him of his sickness benefits.”
“…this House calls for an immediate cessation and reassessment of Atos work capability assessments following the death of Brian McArdle who died from a heart attack the day after his benefits were stopped.”
The total number of individuals with a Jobseeker’s Allowance sanction applied between October 2011 to October 2012 was 540,610 people.
“A homeless centre says it is being overwhelmed with people needing food because their benefits have been temporarily stopped. The Storehouse in Coleman Street is feeding more than 200 people a day and instead of just providing one or two bags to those in need it has become a sole source of food for many. The increase is being blamed on Government benefit reforms which have seen people “sanctioned” for not trying hard enough to get a job. People are asked to fill in forms and provide evidence of job hunts and if they fall short of the criteria, benefits are stopped for several weeks. John Williams who helps run the Storehouse said many who can’t cope with the forms are being left destitute… “We are seeing in excess of 200 people each day. The queues are frightening.”
“Desperate people in Glasgow are walking miles for food. An increasing number of hungry people in the city are turning to a small group of food banks, with some forced to go days without a meal…Audrey, who is also the administrator for Elim Church, added: “In August we were feeding 10 to 15 people per week. In January and February this was 60 people a week. Of the people we see, 80% are single males aged 35 to 50. But we also have families where neither parent is on benefits but one is off work ill and has no sick pay and they have run out of money. Some of the people who come to us also work but the money just won’t stretch and it only takes one big bill to force family finances into chaos.”
Roughly 1.2 million children live in poverty, but are denied free school meals – because their parents work.
“…just the other day she had spoken to a family where the child had been chewing wallpaper at night. “He didn’t want to tell his mum because he knew she didn’t have the money for supper,” she explained. “We hear more and more stories like this” – Gillian Tett, Financial Times.
“We’re getting more and more people coming to the bureau requiring food vouchers. Because of the high cost of energy bills and so on, they’re not being able to have money left at the end of the week to get food”…
“One change we are seeing is people in work are really struggling – often the jobs around at the moment are short term jobs, fixed term contracts, agency work”…
“We found that we had a number of clients coming in week by week who just needed £20 or £10 to get them through the weekend. It might be that there was a delay in a decision on their benefits or they just needed some food or they needed something for their electricity meter”…
“I think the benefit system doesn’t meet the needs of people with cancer. We have had cases where people haven’t been paid the correct benefit while they’re alive and then die”…
– Citizens Advice Bureau staff, Coventry.
“The number of people rough sleeping has gone up by 31 per cent in the past two years, according to government statistics released today. Communities and Local Government department figures show the number of rough sleepers in a single-night snapshot in autumn 2012 was 2,309 up from 1,768 in autumn 2010. This year’s figure was a rise of 6 per cent from autumn 2011’s count of 2,181.″
“Homelessness applications have jumped up 16% from last year and use of bed and breakfast has risen by 44%.”
4,000 beds for homeless people have been lost since the funding ring-fence was removed in 2009. Homeless applications in England in Q3 2009 were 22,950 compared with 29,130 in the same quarter in 2012 – a rise of 27%, Nearly half of homeless services in a recent survey reported having their funding cut this financial year, by an average of 17%. In a survey of services by Homeless Link, communities who had their funding cut reported an increase in rough sleeping (52%), street drinking (41%), anti-social behaviour (48%) and crime (33%).
“The average age of death of a homeless person is 47 years old and even lower for homeless women at just 43, compared to 77 for the general population… Homeless people are over 9 times more likely to commit suicide than the general population.”
“People who sleep rough are 35 times more likely to commit suicide than the general population.”
“Figures obtained from council tax data and held by the lobby group Empty Homes show that 737,491 homes are empty in England – but this does not include uninhabitable properties, those due for demolition and flats above shops. Empty Homes estimates that there are in fact 930,000 properties standing empty, and a further study by Halifax shows that more than 300,000 of these had been empty for more than six months.”
Homeless man Daniel Gauntlett died frozen on the doorstep of an empty bungalow in Aylesford, due to be bulldozed. “Police had reportedly been called previously after he tried to break into the bungalow. And so Mr Gauntlett, had taken the fatal decision to abide by the law. Derek Bailey, 80, who lives next door, said Mr Gauntlett had not appeared to be in ill health.”
“Homeless and vulnerable people are being ‘disproportionately affected’ by the law that criminalised squatting in residential buildings, according to a report from a campaign group. Squatter’s Action for Secure Homes presented their six-month impact analysis in parliament earlier this week and is launching a campaign calling for the law to be overturned. ‘Given the magnitude of the housing crisis and the huge rise in homelessness we are currently facing, this law has critically narrowed the options for many, and is sending homeless people to prison for seeking shelter in empty buildings’.”
“…a number of charities have written to Welfare Secretary Iain Duncan Smith warning the “bedroom tax” could hit 420,000 disabled people, their families and carers.”
“Cancer patients who require a spare room for medical reasons will not be exempt from the under-occupancy measure…People with terminal illnesses will not be exempt from the under-occupancy charge.”
“Rates of suicide, murders and heart attacks will go up as the economy continues its downturn, experts warn…rising UK unemployment could mean at least 290 extra suicides, they say” – July, 2009.
“Male suicides increased by 3.6% as joblessness rose 25%, with unemployment linked to 1,000 deaths from 2008-10. More than 1,000 people in the UK may have killed themselves because of the impact on their lives of the economic recession, according to a new analysis…published in the British Medical Journal.
“The suicide rate had been dropping steadily in the UK for 20 years before the recession hit, but in 2007-2008 it rose by 8% among men and 9% among women… They found that the suicide rate among men rose by 1.4% for every 10% increase in unemployment” – August, 2012.
“1,300 people died after being put into the Work Related Activity Group. 2,200 people died before their assessment was completed. 7,100 people died after being put into the Support Group. In total, between January 2011 and November 2011, some 10,600 claims ended and a date of death was recorded within six weeks of the claim end. The figures are derived from administrative data held by the Department for Work and Pensions and assessment data provided by Atos Healthcare. Data on the number of ESA claimants that have died following a fit for work decision is not available, as the DWP does not hold information on a death if the person has already left benefit. The DWP does not hold information on the number of claimants who died whilst an appeal was in progress.
When asked how many people have been found fit for work under the Work Capability Assessment who had submitted an appeal against that decision and subsequently died prior to the appeal being heard, Chris Grayling replied -
“Between October 2008 and October 2011, the most recent reported period, 31 appeals against decisions relating to work capability assessments have been withdrawn following the notification of death of the appellant. HMCTS cannot identify which of these appeals were against decisions where the appellant was assessed as fit for work.”
These are people whose illness was severe enough that they consequently died. Yet they were having to appeal decisions made about their fitness or relative fitness for work” – Peoples’ Review of the Work Capability Assessment, by the Spartacus group.
It’s not my intention to downplay public generosity, or the very good work that Comic Relief undertakes at home and abroad – but there is a major disconnect between the joy, smiles, drastic haircuts, and celebrity glitz of Comic Relief – as opposed to the very squalid tragedy which is affecting more and more ordinary people throughout Britain, and which remains largely ignored by organisations such as Comic Relief. £75 million + is a lot of money, which will undoubtedly be put to good purpose – but it will not help offset the dereliction and misery being imposed upon socially vulnerable men and women, needlessly.
Courtesy of Richard Hutton at A New Place of Exile