Tony Greenstein | 24 June 2015 | Post Views:

‘The coroner said that when David Clapson died he had no food in his stomach.’ Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian

He’s fighting a legal battle to keep the figures
secret – yet the Work and Pensions Secretary claims Labour MPs are just
‘frightening people’

Iain Duncan Smith
has attacked a ‘disgraceful’ effort to reveal the number of people who died
after being declared fit for work.
Iain Duncan Smith came under fire from Labour MP Debbie Abrahams (left)
Work and Pensions Secretary lashed out after coming under fire over the figures
– which his department is waging a legal battle to keep secret.
than 200,000 people have signed an online petition
by ex-welfare advisor
Maggie Zolobajluk, 63, calling for the figures to be made public.
instead of addressing it he’s made a furious attack on Labour, two of whose MPs
rounded on him in the Commons yesterday.
accused the opposition of ‘going out every day scaring and frightening people’
and ‘deliberately misrepresenting’ the government’s fit-for-work schemes.

he attacked Labour because the party introduced the work capability assessment
in 2007, before the Coalition expanded it.
Jacqueline Harris, from Kingswood, Bristol. Her family say she took her own life after being refused benefits

Marie Rimmer asked him: “May I ask again why the Government are refusing
to publish – even though the Information Commissioner has instructed them to do
so – the up-to-date statistics relating to the number of people who have died,
having been found fit for work at their face-to-face assessment?”
The petition was started by ex-welfare advisor Maggie Zolobajluk, 63
Duncan Smith replied: “I find it absurd that Opposition Members
deliberately try to misrepresent what happens under such schemes.

remind the honourable lady it was her Government who introduced the employment
support allowance and the work capability assessment, and at no stage did they
say that that led to people committing suicide.
Mark Wood, 44, with complex mental health issues starved to death after being sanctioned
in that situation are often in a very delicate and difficult position, and I
find it disgraceful that she is going round making such allegations.”
Under pressure:
200,000 people have joined a petition against Iain Duncan Smith
made MP Debbie Abrahams thunder: “Does the Secretary of State think that
he and his Department are above the law?
does he refuse to publish the details of the number of people who have died
within six weeks of their claims for incapacity benefit and employment and
support allowance, including those who have been found fit for work?”
Mr Duncan Smith said: “I find it unbelievable that she, the honourable
lady and others have spent all their time trying to make allegations about
people going about their work.

is a crying shame that Labour members want to go out every day scaring and
frightening people. It is no wonder they lost the election.”
also claimed his department ‘doesn’t collate the numbers’ at all – appearing to
fly in the face of his own officials’ advice.

Maggie Zolobajluk
Movement: The
petition was started by ex-welfare advisor Maggie Zolobajluk, 63
civil servants have openly admitted they collect the data, have published it
before, and are planning to publish more in the future. Read
the full ruling here
Coalition’s welfare changes saw people told to find work despite having chronic
illnesses – some of whom died before getting their benefits back.
Mark Wood starved
to death in David Cameron’s constituency four months after his benefits were
– weighing just 5st 8lbs when he was found.
ex-nurse Jacqueline Harris, 53, took
her own life after she was ruled fit to work
despite having slipped disks
in her back and severe pain.
Bottom of Form
founder Ms Zolobajluk said: “I could see what was happening in the
community. It was so predictable. These cuts came in and left people feeling
request to release the figures was made under the Freedom of Information Act by
campaigner Mike Sivier.
asked how many people who died between November 2011 and May 2014 had been
found ‘fit for work’, or told they could move towards getting work.
chiefs said they were preparing to publish the information in their own time,
and it’d be unfair to rush them – but Information
Commissioner Christopher Graham ruled they’d acted unreasonably

for the full petition.

Benefit changes are killing the vulnerable, say campaigners

The sister of a mentally ill man who
starved to death warns that many more could die this winter

The sister of a mentally ill man who starved to death in David Cameron’s
constituency after his benefits were wrongly cut has accused the Government of
“killing the very vulnerable”, as official figures emerged suggesting
dozens of people could have died in similar circumstances.

Freedom of Information requests by the Disability News Service revealed that
the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has investigated decisions made
about welfare payments following the deaths of 60 people since 2012 – the first
time the DWP has tacitly admitted there could be a link.
However, campaigners believe the number of deaths could be far higher,
claiming the changes to benefit rules have amounted to “passive

A public meeting in Witney in Oxfordshire on Thursday will hear from the
sisters of two men who died after their benefits were cut, Mark Wood, 44 and
David Clapson, 59. Mr Wood, who had a number of mental health problems, was
found starved to death last year after his benefits were reduced to £40 a week
because he was deemed fit for work. A government review later found that this
decision had been a mistake.

The Prime Minister has said his death was “tragic” and pledged to
“help find the answers to make sure that lessons are learnt”.
However, Mr Wood’s sister Cathie Wood, 49, said she felt that members of the
Government believed “these people aren’t worth having around”.

“They must, in their secret hearts, think that,” she said.
“It worked; he died. They say they want to protect the very vulnerable,
and they are killing the very vulnerable. I think it is a really huge, hidden
scandal and there are going to be more people who die this winter.”

Mr Wood, who had been “desperately trying to be independent”, was
reclusive, and only told his family that his benefits had been cut shortly
before he died. The coroner said his death was probably partly caused by his
being “markedly underweight and malnourished”.

A DWP report into his case,due out in June, has been delayed. Officials now
say it will not be ready until next year. Ms Wood said she suspected it would
not be revealed until after the general election.
Mr Clapson, a former soldier and a Type-1 diabetic, died in July after his
benefits were cut. He had no food in his stomach, £3.44 in the bank and no
money on his electricity card, leaving him unable to operate his fridge where
he kept his insulin. MPs are to look into his death after a petition calling
for an inquiry gathered more than 210,000 names.

“I feel [benefit] sanctions are cruel and harsh on the weak and
vulnerable, which my brother had become through no fault of his own,”
sister Gill Thompson said. “My brother didn’t create [a fuss], he just
walked away … he wasn’t one for a scene. My brother has gone, there is nothing
can be done to bring him back. All I want now is lessons to be learnt and no
one else to die, and his passing not to be without meaning.”

In 2013, some 871,000 people were sanctioned by the DWP, losing some or all
of their benefits for weeks or months. John Pring, of the Disability News
Service, said the admission the DWP had looked into 60 cases since 2012 was
significant. “It does seem to be the first kind of solid evidence that the
DWP do seem to accept there’s some link between mistakes they make in their
procedures and the deaths of people,”
he said.

Mr Pring suspected there were “a lot more” cases, saying he knew
of more than 60 from inquest reports alone. The true number, he said, could be
anything from about that to several thousand.
John McArdle, from campaign group Black Triangle, has compiled a list of 70
people who died after their benefits were cut, including many mentally ill and
disabled people. He said this was likely to be “the tip of the
iceberg”. “These people are being cut loose and it’s a policy that
amounts to passive euthanasia. These are very vulnerable people who require our
support, care and love,”
he said.

Thursday’s meeting was organised by the Green Party, of which Mr Wood was a
member. Stuart Macdonald, prospective Green parliamentary candidate in Witney,
said: “Mark Wood was told that he didn’t deserve to have any more money.
He felt [£40 a week] was what he deserved … and it was his fault if he couldn’t
manage. He had more money from his sister but he gave that away to charity
because he didn’t feel he deserved it.”

A DWP spokeswoman said Mr Clapson had not appealed against the removal of
his benefits or sought hardship payments. Of Mr Wood’s case, she said:
The coroner attributed Mr Wood’s eating disorder and food phobia as the
likely cause of his death.”
She said the DWP spent £94bn a year on
working-age benefits “to ensure that a safety net is in place to support
some of the most vulnerable people in society”

Posted in

Tony Greenstein

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.