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The late David Clapson [Image: change.org petition site].

The late David Clapson [Image: change.org petition site].

MPs are set to hold an inquiry into benefit sanctions after 200,000 people signed a petition in the wake of an ex-soldier’s death.

More than 211,000 people signed a Change.org petition started by Gill Thompson calling for an inquiry into benefit sanctions after diabetic David Clapson, 59, was found dead in his home.

Gill’s three-month campaign called for an independent inquiry into benefit sanctions – which refers to occasions that money is withheld from claimants if they fail to meet the terms agreed.

The Work and Pensions cross-party select committee has now agreed and its inquiry into benefit sanctions is due to start early next year. It is expected to be completed shortly before the General Election in May.

David, from Stevenage – who worked for 29 years, had his £71.70 weekly allowance stopped and died three weeks later. When his body was found by a friend, his electricity card was out of credit, meaning the fridge where he kept the insulin he used to treat his diabetes was not working.

He died from diabetic ketoacidosis three weeks after his benefits were stopped, caused by not taking insulin. A coroner found that when David died there was no food in his stomach.

Gill, 57, from London, has welcomed the decision to hold an inquiry. She said: “I’m still getting my head around the announcement. It’s still so overwhelming. When I started the petition I didn’t know what would happen.

“It wasn’t just for David. Nothing can replace him but the one thing I thought I could do was to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else.

“I’m not normally a campaigner and David wasn’t someone who liked a fuss, but sometimes in life there are certain things you have to do – and starting this petition was one of them.

“I am so glad I did it now. I hope, through this investigation, lessons will be learnt. People turn to the state when they are in need – that is what the system is for – a safety net for hard working people like my brother when they need a bit of support.”

Debbie Abrahams, MP for East Oldham and Saddleworth, has been calling on the DWP select committee, of which she is a member, to hold an inquiry into “inappropriate use” of benefit sanctions since November last year.

She said: “Gill has shown great courage in the wake of her brother’s appalling death to take on this cruel government and its inhuman policy of targeting vulnerable people who are reliant on social security.

“The huge response to Gill’s Change.org petition with more than 200,000 signatures is proof that the British public will not stand by and do nothing when they see vulnerable people suffering.”

“The government has done everything it can to avoid having this inquiry. There is increasing evidence of the negative effects of social security sanctions on some of the most vulnerable in society, which shows that their so-called welfare reforms don’t work. This is a government that doesn’t give a damn about ordinary people.

“Latest figures show that there are now more people in working families who are living in poverty than in workless and retired families combined.”

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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