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The accusations against DWP are coming thick and fast now. Here’s the latest, courtesy of Disability News Service:

 A disabled man died of a heart attack, just an hour after being told that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was threatening to stop paying his out-of-work disability benefits.

Alan McArdle, who had previously been homeless but was living in council accommodation in Slough with the support of a charity, told the friend who had read the DWP letter to him: “They’ve sanctioned my money,” before he collapsed.

The government contractor responsible for finding him work, the discredited outsourcing giant Maximus, had reported him to DWP for failing to attend appointments intended to move him towards work, as part of the Work Programme, despite being told about his severe ill-health.

Slough’s Labour MP, Fiona Mactaggart, accused DWP of being responsible for her constituent’s death, and told Disability News Service she would raise his case in the House of Commons.

The mitigating words from DWP and Maximus manage to be both pathetic and infuriating at the same time. The DWP spokesperson came out with the current excuse:

“It’s misleading to link a death to someone’s benefit claim.”

Readers of This Blog will know that this replaced the previous excuse, “It is irresponsible to suggest a causal link between the death of an individual and their benefit claim”, after it became plain not only that it is possible to suggest such a link but also that it would be irresponsible not to point it out.

The Maximus line was:

“Participation in the Work Programme is mandatory for people in the WRAG who are in receipt of ESA. We make strenuous efforts to inform participants about their obligations and contact them if they fail to show up for arranged meetings.”

The reason Mr McArdle had been sanctioned was for failing to keep in contact with Maximus. His mobility had become so poor that the organisation had allowed him to do this by phone – this fact alone is enough to raise questions regarding why he was not allowed to join the support group of ESA, where he would not be required to attend meetings and in which he obviously belonged.

He had suffered injuries after a fall that required him to be admitted to hospital, meaning he had been unable to contact Maximus as usual. When Mandy McGuire, project manager of the charity Slough Homeless Our Concern (SHOC), who had supported McArdle for 16 years, had told Maximus the situation, she said the company’s reply had been a little different:

“He hasn’t come in, so we will get him sanctioned.”

This is a clear example of DWP persecution leading to a claimant’s death. How obvious does it have to be?

He died from the shock of being told his benefits had been cut off while he was in hospital, for crying out loud. He didn’t belong in the work-related activity group at all; his health was so poor, he should not have been subjected to its pressures.

Maximus, the company monitoring his performance on the Work Programme, is also the company responsible for carrying out work capability assessments. It seems clear that Mr McArdle’s assessor was very badly mistaken about his condition.

He was wrongly assessed, put in the wrong group of ESA, and wrongly sanctioned – but both the DWP and Maximus are, incredibly, trying to say it isn’t their fault.

They must be held to account.
Source: Disabled man died of heart attack after being told of ESA sanction threat

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