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Dame Anne Begg, chair of the Work and Pensions committee.

Dame Anne Begg, chair of the Work and Pensions committee.

A commenter on yesterday’s article about the death of a claimant at Ashton-Under-Lyne Job Centre raised an important point.

The comment was intended to harshly criticise the piece by misrepresenting it as saying Job Centre staff are responsible for forming government policies. Of course they aren’t – but as human beings with responsibility for their own actions, they may certainly choose whether to carry out those policies. They have personal responsibility for what they do. This means they must also take responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

The response to the commenter was that there is an advisor at Ashton-Under-Lyne Job Centre Plus whose decision led to the death of a claimant and that person must live with the fact for the rest of their life. It is possible they may have to pay a penalty for it (along with those who gave the orders), if some of us get what we want from a future government. If and when that happens, resigning may seem like a much better option.

But that won’t happen at all, if nobody investigates what happens.

Here’s a letter to Dame Anne Begg, chair of the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, asking for that investigation. Perhaps readers of this article may wish to write to their own MP, asking them to support the request. The letter runs as follows:

A blog article of mine about the death of a claimant at Ashton-Under-Lyne Job Centre is gaining widespread attention. The person concerned – who happened to be homeless and to have mental health issues – had his benefits sanctioned by a Job Centre adviser. He then went out onto the streets where he died of hypothermia.

It seems unlikely that this person would have died if his benefits had not been removed. According to the originating article, Job Centre staff used the famous ‘Nuremberg Defence’ that they were “only following orders”.

Personally, I don’t think this is good enough. There is a Job Centre adviser at Ashton-Under-Lyne who is responsible for the death of a claimant – a person over whom they, together with the rest of the DWP and the Coalition Government, had a duty of care.

I think the situation needs to be investigated and the relevant people made to pay a penalty. Do you agree and will you be able to use your position on the Work and Pensions Committee to make this happen?

If DWP staff think they can get away with this, it will happen again and again. Who knows how often it has happened already?

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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