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The vindictiveness of our Conservative-led government knows no bounds.

Not only has the government cut a man’s state benefits after he was diagnosed with cancer, but its supporters then attacked him in the local newspaper’s comment column – even though they knew nothing about his situation.

The gentleman concerned is Pete Woodcock of Scunthorpe who, according to a report in the Scunthorpe Telegraph, has been unemployed for around eight years.

Rather than sit around, he has spent his time volunteering in the community – for up to 40 hours per week – while also job hunting.

But when his doctors told him he had cancer, DWP officials cut his benefit money by 40 per cent (from £140 per week to £84). This is because attending hospital on both sides of the Humber meant he was unable to attend job clubs and had to claim a sickness benefit instead.

“When a person has cancer the last thing a person needs to worry about is finances but I now have to look after my family, pay bills and finance my trips to hospitals on less than £100 per week,” Mr Woodcock is quoted as saying. “Is this what health and welfare reforms have led to?

“The DWP even told me that if I went back on to jobseekers and gave up my treatment I could go back on to £140 per week to live on – meaning if I decided to die, I could be richer!”

So much for your caring Conservative-led government. Now look at this despicable response from a reader:

“Not much gratitude shown to taxpayers for the hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of free cancer treatment he will receive. I would say that is a pretty substantial benefit myself.”

Disgusting. The whole point of the National Health Service is that everybody pays something towards it, to ensure that it is free at the point of use. One has to question whether this commenter was a government plant, ordered to make this statement as part of the campaign to soften us all up for privatisation.

Here’s another one with his head in the clouds: “I’d look at this man’s situation the other way and suggest that he’s been overpaid (by at least 40 per cent) over the last eight years, whilst he’s been sat at home reaping in the benefits – whilst the rest of us have been going to work. Eight years is a very long time. Why couldn’t he find a job? Not really looking perhaps.”

It happens that a previous commenter had already answered this claim, but clearly these people don’t pay attention to anybody but themselves. The other commenter noted: “He is long-term unemployed (so largely unemployable), he didn’t sit on his behind all day (from what I hear) and smoke pot. The guy has a social conscience and appears to give a toss about where he lives.”

But this person noted that Mr Woodcock’s voluntary work could also harm his benefits: “I have to say he should be careful; the Jobcentre could class that as ‘not actively seeking and being available for work’, mainly due to the amount of time his job-seeking should occupy compared to a full time job.” We’re living in a crazy, upside-down country!

Final word goes to another commenter who pointed out that nothing has changed since the Coalition government first tightened the rules for claiming sickness benefits: “The aim of Govt was to demonise those on benefit by highlighting the worst cases of abuse and unless you are near to terminal there is the idea by the DWP you can do something.”

This is eerily reminiscent of the incident that sparked all the other stories about the victimisation of the sick. Does anybody remember, years ago, when the Coalition government was chastised for putting a patient with terminal cancer into the work-related activity group of Employment and Support Allowance, telling that person he should spend the final six months of his life at work?

Despite the huge backlash and protestations from the government that it has changed the system, it seems there has been no improvement at all.

Meanwhile, perhaps because of the constant right-wing media attacks on the sick as “feckless” “scroungers”, it seems the public have been manipulated into hardening their attitude.

ADDENDUM: You can read another perspective on this, from Scriptonite, here.

Just as the Tories wanted.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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