A wake-up call for people on Canterbury’s council estates

The callousness of this Coalition government and its Conservative figurehead never ceases to disappoint me.

It seems that some commentators, in focusing on the issue of food banks raised by Ed Miliband in Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday, completely missed the discussion of an even worse scandal – one that the Coalition has encouraged and that legislation coming into effect next year will escalate.

“I have in my hand a genuine suicide note,” said Ian Lavery, Labour MP for Wansbeck, “from a constituent of mine who, sadly, took his own life after he was informed that he was no longer entitled to Employment and Support Allowance and disability benefits. Across the UK, more than 1,000 people have died only months after being told to find work.

“This is 2012 — we are supposed to be a civilised society. We should be looking after disabled citizens in the UK. Will the Prime Minister listen to the 62,000 people who have signed Pat’s Petition and please finally order an assessment of all changes hitting disabled people in this country?”

David Cameron began his response with an anodyne expression of sympathy to the family of the deceased, before going on to support the government’s actions: “Some people have been stuck on these benefits and not been reviewed for year after year after year.” Like Iain Duncan Smith, who responded in a similar manner to a teenage boy who had lost his father because of the government’s choice to cut his benefits unnecessarily, he refused to address the fact that it was his choices – and those of his government – that had led to the death. If I was a family member of Mr Lavery’s constituent, I would be nauseated.

In itself, you might think that was offensive enough, but worse was to follow when Canterbury’s Conservative MP, Julian Brazier, stood up and opened his mouth: “May I reassure my Right Honourable friend that those of my constituents who are most strongly in favour of reforming benefits — focusing them more on those who need them and taking them away from those who do not — are people who live on council estates and are fed up with working long hours to subsidise the lifestyles of those who do not want to work?”

Did this creature not realise how offensive that remark would be, coming after the exchange with Mr Lavery? The whole point of Pat’s Petition – and its successor, the WOW Petition – is that people on council estates are not working to subsidise the lifestyles of those who don’t want to work. Their tax pounds are subsidising the luxury lifestyles of government ministers, whose actions are killing people who, already, don’t have enough to live on. I’m referring to people who may have worked their entire lives before illness or infirmity stripped them of that ability, and of their dignity.

I have a few examples of the people affected by the Coalition’s benefit cuts. Perhaps readers can work out for themselves whether these cuts really are “focusing… more on those who need them and taking them away from those who do not”. I am grateful to my Facebook friend Jim Moore for supplying the list.

Paul Reekie, 48, left no suicide note – but a letter informing him that his welfare benefits were to be stopped were found next to his body. Was that the action of someone who had been taking advantage of hard-working council estate residents?

Paul Willcoxson, 33, Who had mental health problems, was found hanging in Pignals Enclosure, near Hollands Wood campsite. A suicide letter and next of kin note were found in which he expressed concerns about the cuts to his benefits.

Leanne Chambers, 30, was found in the River Weir five months after she walked out of her home. She had battled depression for a number of years and had taken a turn for the worse after receiving a letter telling her she had to be assessed by a doctor she did not know, to see if she was fit to return to work.

Christelle Pardo, 32, and Kayjah Pardo, 6 months: After having all her income cut off and her housing benefit withdrawn, and with a baby to care for, she had been left destitute. When she begged for help, the only response from the Department for Work and Pensions was that she didn’t qualify under the rules. So she killed herself and her young child. Destitute. Is there anybody reading this who is shameless enough to say this woman was cynically exploiting her working neighbours?

Elaine Christian, 57, was found in a drain after walking out of her home. A post mortem revealed she had died from drowning, despite having more than 10 self-inflicted cuts on her wrists.The inquest in Hull was told Mrs Christian had been deeply worried about a meeting she was due to have to discuss her entitlement to disability benefits.

David Groves, 56, died of a massive heart attack the night before his medical assessment as he sat at his computer and scoured the internet for ways to raise cash in case he lost his entitlement. He was a striver. He knew the odds were against him keeping his benefit, even though he clearly deserved it, and was trying to find other ways of earning money. That is not the action of a scrounger.

Mark and Helen Mullins were found lying side by side in their home after committing suicide together. They had been left destitute after Helen had her claim for benefit turned down. They had no food, no heating and no electricity. If that’s the kind of lifestyle subsidised by working people, under this government, ask yourself: Would YOU want it?

Stephen Hill, 53, died of a heart attack a month after his benefits were stopped. He had been told his heart problem were not serious enough to stop him working.

Craig Monk, 43, was found hanging in his home. He’d had one leg partially amputated and was described by his family as “vulnerable”. He became depressed because his benefits had been cut.

Martin Rust, 36, a schizophrenic, had his benefits cut and was ordered back to work. He left a note saying: “To those I love, I’m sorry. Goodbye.” Coroner William Armstrong said the Department of Work and Pensions’ decision to cut his benefits “caused distress and may well have had an adverse effect”. He recorded that Mr Rust had committed suicide while suffering from a treatment-resistant mental illness.

Paul Turner, 52, died from ischaemic heart disease – caused, his family claim, by the stress of losing his benefits. He was told his heart problems were not serious enough for him not to work, and died four weeks after receiving the notification.

Mark Scott, 46, who suffered from anxiety and epilepsy, was left penniless when he was declared fit for work and his benefits were stopped. He died six weeks later in the Southport flat where he lived alone.

Colin Traynor, who was a lifelong epileptic, was assessed as fit for work. He appealed, but according to his parents he became depressed and lost weight. He died less than four months later. The day after his death, his parents found out he had won his appeal.

If you are getting depressed by the details on this list, let me remind you that these people are a drop in the ocean. According to the last set of official figures I’ve seen, 73 people die every week after being involved in a government reappraisal of their benefits in some way. As you can see from the evidence, those reassessments were wrong more often than they were right.

It is thanks to the support of people like Julian Brazier and the council-estate constituents he quotes (if his remark was accurate) that the Coalition is getting away with these deaths. I hope he reads this article and reconsiders. I hope his constituents do the same. It’s too late to save people like David Groves or Mark Scott, but there are hundreds of thousands more who face hardship that will be just as bad, if the repression of the sick and disabled is allowed to continue. As far as they are concerned, it’s not too late for you to change your minds.

The WOW Petition (it stands for the resistance to the War On Welfare) is now open and can be found here. If you have found any of the above to be persuasive, please sign it.

And for those of you who remain homicidally determined to continue with the policy, no matter how much harm it does – that means you, Mr Brazier, you, Iain Duncan Smith, you Mr Cameron…

Merry Christmas. You’ll get what’s coming to you, soon enough.

13 thoughts on “A wake-up call for people on Canterbury’s council estates

  1. steve

    I’m wondering wether the premeditation of the Conservative position is tantamount to murder by proxy….It seems too well planned to deserve a opinion of manslaughter by persons unknown. I feel there is something intrinsically wrong with national politics in the modern age. for it seems to serve the priviledged, international corporations and bankers at the expense of all others.The politicians are quite happy to have “blood on their hands” as long as it pays well (ie: Tony Blair receiving a million pound fee from an oil company now operating in Iraq).

    Something has to change…for reference watch the documentary “War on Democracy” by John Pilger, it highlights the way politics in central and South America have been abused for the benefit of American corporatists. The telling comment is – “It doesn’t matter who you vote for” the general policies of the various political parties are the same self-serving ideology when they are elected. Compare that to the big three political parties in the UK….Are they not the same when it comes to the crunch?

    1. Mike Sivier

      And of course, if you think that’s the case – no matter how you came to that conclusion – it will discourage people of good conscience from joining those political parties, even with a view to changing them. So they carry on as they are, with no real opposition.
      I’m a member of Labour because I see it as being the party most likely to break step with the current beliefs; we seem to have the most members who believe in alternative solutions. Whether those voices can be heard at the top table, I don’t know.
      One other aspect of all this is the effect of the internet and social media. People now have many more ways of making their voices heard, and gaining approval for their views from others. How will this affect democracy? It’s a movement that is in its infancy now, and could create huge change in the future – if it isn’t stamped on.
      And if it is – Pirate Internet, anyone?

  2. Bill Kruse

    Well, not every member of every party has the same outlook. But far too many of the major parties are Neoliberal, intent on treating us as cattle to be milked for whatever we can. To avoid detection they seek to divide us, making us war amongst ourselves, by labelling those they’ve made unemployed and sick as scroungers, malingerers, free-loaders, characterising them as wanting something for nothing, Yet the truth is the obvious parasites here are government themselves, affording themselves a far better lifestyle at the expense of the taxpayer than those they criticise and malign. Since all the parties are the same in this respect, as people understand and revolt against what’s happening In the next few years I suspect we’ll be doing away with central government altogether. Goodbye central government, hello federation. Can’t be too soon either.

    1. Mike Sivier

      That’s an intriguing thought. I agree that the parasites are far more visibly members of the government themselves (NOT Parliament – there are opposition MPs and I’m sure even Tory and LD backbenchers who work very hard for their constituents) than the sick or disabled.
      Neoliberalism could ruin everybody, including those who think they’re ruling the roost. I mentioned in my response to Steve that I’m a member of Labour and I’d like to see that party steer away from that way of thinking, sooner rather than later. It’s the only way to form an effective Opposition, anyway.

  3. jaynel62

    I to a a Labour Party member, not because I agree with all their Policies or al of their ways of thinking but because as a member I have a voice to lobby for change within

  4. Richard K

    Alas the Psychopaths are running the country, and who clearly don’t care about those in need, or they would be doing something about it.

    This is simply diversion tactics to blame the poor whilst cossetting the super rich and corporations.

    To achieve power in business or government you have to have and exhibit many of the characteristics of Psychopathic behavior, which has become warped into a state where Psychopathic Corporations have achieved an ‘Above the Law’ level of disregard for humanity or morality.

    I’d say that denying the Public Purse the due Taxes, by avoidance or evasion, should be, in time of war (as we are) a capitol offense and classified as High Treason, due to threatening the Security of the State.

    I would offer an amnesty for individuals and accountants who perpetrated the diversion of funds, to return the taxes and funds due to the Public Purse and not allow the super rich to reduce the taxes available to the country to be financially secure.
    If individuals and accountants fail to return money then convict them of High Treason.
    It may sound harsh, but no way as harsh as victimising the poor and disabled, due to the lack of taxes the rich have avoided paying.

    High Treason for involvement and collusion in misappropriation of Tax.

    Why not ?

  5. kittysjones

    I’ve taken the list here and added more victims of this Government;’s contracted murder. I hope you don’t mind. I have credited you as the source. I’m going to keep it up to date . As you said, tax payers, including many of those sick and disabled who are now dead, pay for our welfare provision. It’s paid for by us FOR us. This government have ransacked this Country and robbed us, to give the proceeds of that crime to the wealthy.

    ” We are raising more money for the rich”. Yes, Cameron,and Tory sponsors, you psychopathic, uncivilised and authoritarian monster, and the most vulnerable members of Society are paying with their very lives.- http://kittysjones.wordpress.com/2012/12/20/remembering-the-welfare-reform-deaths/

  6. Joanna Terry

    All signed Mike, hope it goes much further this time but I won’t give up, if at first..sort of thing. I to have joined the Labour party, I am in contact with my local councillor who graces me with home visits I have tasked her husband, who is on sick leave at the moment, with educating themselves at how devastating gov. policies are. It has been no small coincidence that some sea change has been seen at the top table (because of all the hard work of people like yourself and other org.s) although lots of work to do yet but you cannot complain if you dismiss it all and allow them to carry on behaving badly, doing nothing is not an option and there is great difficulty with our democracy when new paries cannot make any impact at elections. It takes work to make changes and even though I am very disabled, at a local level I am doing my best. Lets not let the b***gers win. I agree with Richard K that it is worth considering making tax avoidence a capital offence, not just for now but always, there is no excuse for avoiding what is tantamont to fraud

  7. Mike Sivier

    I have deleted a series of comments from Teddy McNabb. He was trying to use the article, which is about the disgraceful behaviour of the Conservatives, to attack the Labour Party for its behaviour while in power. He did not address the article in a meaningful way, nor did he respond to the points I raised in response to him. His information about the effect of Labour policies may well have been accurate but this was not the place for it; Labour is not in power any more and cannot be held responsible for what is happening at the moment. I drew the line after Teddy moved on to telling me what I’m like (note: not what he thinks I’m like) in less-than-complimentary terms.
    Teddy doesn’t know me. He can jog on.
    I’m happy to entertain opposing points of view in the Comment columns of this blog; in fact I welcome them. But if you want to argue, you should direct your argument to the points raised in the articles and you should be prepared to defend your argument in a coherent way – rather than simply saying your opponent is a yes-man for a particular party/philosophy or quoting history at us. Just because one political party did something wrong in the past, that doesn’t mean another is justified in continuing it.

  8. Pingback: Shocking denial of liability for the well-being of sickness benefit claimants | Peter Nicholls

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