Cancer sufferer’s benefits are cut – and the chattering classes demonise HIM

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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  1. david edwards May 2, 2014 at 10:25 am - Reply

    This is disgusting , incredible ….

    • ghost whistler May 3, 2014 at 9:41 am - Reply

      My thoughts exactly. This is beyond belief.

    • Julie Appleby May 3, 2014 at 7:46 pm - Reply

      People scowl at me when I liken this government to the Nazi party !! but the more I read and the more prejudice I see I am srill 100% behind my thinking, this generations Nazi Party ..end off.

  2. MrHindle1 May 2, 2014 at 10:31 am - Reply

    Vile comments indeed,encouraged by politicians who, of course will say that they are merely expressing the views of their constituents in a vicious circle of reinforced ignorance and spite. No-win situation of course, the gentleman contributed to society in the best way he could, but by doing so he is condemned as not trying hard enough to get employment. If he had stayed at home, equally condemned, as are many who are deemed too ill. When you have Webb justifying the financial penalty for having a necessary dialysis room on the basis,because others do not have that choice neither should they without penalty a Rubicon has been broached which brings forth the acceptability of hate-filled spite and a sickening jealousy.

  3. Groc May 2, 2014 at 10:35 am - Reply

    When I was a kid I could never quite understand how Nazi Germany could have ever happened. How somewhere as liberal and progressive and modern as Berlin in the Weimar Republic could turn so dramatically. But now I can because I can see it happening under my nose. All the same elements are in play, the propaganda, the scapegoating, the “blame-the-victim” mentality of the person on the street, the callousness, the hatred… It remains to be seen how far down this path the British public are willing to go.

  4. Big Bill May 2, 2014 at 10:38 am - Reply

    It’s perfectly understandable. You have to realise the Coalition, the Establishment, the Neoliberals, whatever you want to call them, are parasites. If we aren’t working we’re not producing something they can leech. Once we’re unable to work, we’re no good to them. Remember how furious Cameron was when the riots happened? It’s because the machine stopped for just a moment, the people machine which makes what his kind feed off. If you bear that in mind, their behaviour makes perfect sense.

    • Thomas M May 3, 2014 at 6:59 am - Reply

      To be fair to Cameron, I was furious about the riots too. Innocent people got murdered and robbed and buildings were destroyed. I want the machine to stop too but without needless destruction and robbery. A Tahrir Square like protest would be more like it, but we don’t have the numbers.

      • Mike Sivier May 3, 2014 at 9:28 am - Reply

        I don’t recall any murders during the riots. I recall a lot of pointless damage to property that didn’t belong to anybody whose actions sparked the riots, and thefts of property belonging to people who were similarly uninvolved. Cameron put on a show of being furious, and I think this was mostly because he saw the riots as a sign that people were rejecting his authority. Quite right too, in my opinion, as he has had no authority conferred on him by the British people – he grabbed his position in a backroom deal with Nick Clegg.
        If the rioters had done their research and hit targets that would have made Cameron more vulnerable – I was going to put a list here but I think that might be irresponsible – he would have had far more reason to be angry, and also afraid. As it was, the rioters only showed him how silly people were, and how easily-led.

        • Big Bill May 3, 2014 at 11:54 am - Reply

          If they’d rioted in the City, for instance…

          • Mike Sivier May 3, 2014 at 1:00 pm

            You’re not wrong!

      • alan May 3, 2014 at 10:28 am - Reply

        The riots in London were orchestrated by outside forces. I know that there is information to this effect on You Tube, but not had chance to look it up, it is just that your comment reminded me of this fact. Apparently there were outside individuals with radios, that appeared not to be with the crowd of rioters, were organising what was going on, and the police force deliberately late in arriving on the scene. Check out Operation Gladio to see what governments get up to

        • Mike Sivier May 3, 2014 at 10:40 am - Reply

          Oh really – the government organised the riots so Cameron could get angry about them afterwards? Does anybody else have any observations to make?

  5. hstorm May 2, 2014 at 11:00 am - Reply

    Like I said on Twitter earlier, absolutely classic example of the DWP looking for any excuse they can get to sanction a claimant. It’s partly the ‘Choice Economics’ obsession with hitting targets, without ever establishing whether the target is a good thing first, but it’s also overflowing with malice, because such targets are always being imposed on the poor and most vulnerable.

  6. kayleigh j May 2, 2014 at 11:06 am - Reply

    Im find it mindblowing the numbers of stupid people in the uk falling for the Tory propaganda,

    • alan May 3, 2014 at 10:31 am - Reply

      Recently heard an old git defending Esther McVey, and he would not be told what this woman really stands for, even when she does the evil that she does in front of his very eyes. There are none so blind as those who do not wish to see.

  7. nuggy May 2, 2014 at 11:20 am - Reply

    lets hope some of them get cancer.

    • Mike Sivier May 2, 2014 at 11:53 am - Reply

      Let’s not.
      I prefer to rise above these creatures, rather than descend to their level.

      • Joanna May 2, 2014 at 8:18 pm - Reply

        I asked one person who was laying into me about my being on sick and not paying taxes, “how do you know whether or not your taxes are being used to pay for IDS’s butt and b*ll*ck warmers and his £36 breakfast”? Needless to say he didn’t have an answer! Go figure!

  8. Linda Powell May 2, 2014 at 11:24 am - Reply

    Every body pays taxes,those in work or unemployed eg vat on fuel bills,clothes toiletries,some foods. transport this list goes on. Any benefit received in the tax year is,is included in the wages if and when they gain employment. We are just becoming a very nasty,sick and divided country.

    • Joanna May 2, 2014 at 8:28 pm - Reply

      I agree but at the same time I do pity some workers, because they do pay a huge amount of income tax, whereas people who don’t work, for what ever reason don’t pay income tax. Those workers who earn less and pay more are bound to be resentful, wouldn’t you be? This government is clearly capitalising from this kind of war, because that is what it is becoming!

  9. Catwoman (@grizzly4paws) May 2, 2014 at 12:40 pm - Reply

    Stop the world I wanna get off.

  10. Wayne May 2, 2014 at 12:59 pm - Reply

    Its like the old saying goes: You can take the tea out of britain but you cant take the c**t out of scunthorpe

  11. samedifference1 May 2, 2014 at 1:05 pm - Reply

    Reblogged this on Same Difference.

  12. rogerharris May 2, 2014 at 1:07 pm - Reply

    Mike you are trying to make it easier on yourself by blaming the government as instigators. The more chilling reality is when resources are being reduced during a recession, people will think this way off their own accord. The government just chooses to act on the zeitgeist. Why is another subject.

    Nobody is really forcing anybody to think this way against others now are they ? its not like we are pressurizing each other to say this kind of stuff. Is anybody forcing anybody else to read the press or listen to IDS rhetoric ? Do you think the average person is so stupid ? Whats going on now is willful and the people taking part are enjoying the mudslinging, or sitting on the fence waiting to follow the leader.

    • Mike Sivier May 2, 2014 at 1:23 pm - Reply

      That’s a chilling thought.
      I agree that there is a compelling argument in favour of what you’re suggesting – that people find their own scapegoats and the right-wing press, encouraged by the government, fuels that prejudice.
      However, it seems to me that people who want to blame somebody might just as easily do so after a government spokesperson drops a casual suggestion on the TV news or a talk show. A couple of years ago, the word “feckless” was nowhere near as popular as it is now, for example.
      I’d like to see what other readers think about this.

      • MrHindle1 May 2, 2014 at 2:08 pm - Reply

        As you say it is I think a two way process whereby the Government’s feeds into and off the worst prejudices of people ,but of course the Government /media have access to a daily machine that can control to a large degree the agenda and use of language.People of course are not just passive in this process and can oppose the intended “message”as,we obviously do but as you imply at the very least Governmental utterations/framing of the debate gives acceptability to what was until recent times unacceptable to most.

      • rogerharris May 2, 2014 at 3:24 pm - Reply

        We had this same pattern in the last recession. My mother who had just survived cancer still only weighed about 8 stone and had the DHSS giving her a hard time about benefits. There are differences between then and now, but overall whats going on is the same. Its about the pie of resources and pecking orders being re-assorted in as many types of ways as there are resources. The overall political game (haves (right-wing) vs have nots(left-wing)) and the demonization is how one human rationalizes their right for pecking order. Right now we are in the eye of the storm of this game which is about re-ordering of socio-economic positions. during this time many people change from right to left and vice versa. The hate usually comes from those switching from left to right (or trying). Eventually this processes quiets down as the dip bottoms out, everybody starts to understand what is going to be their lot and deal with their place in a re-ordered society, Same pattern everywhere, every recession, every big shift of resources.

    • Phil Workman May 2, 2014 at 6:03 pm - Reply

      I think that you are mostly right, which is a really grim thought. However, I think that the government and it’s tame press make people feel that they have ‘permission’ to be horrible to their neighbours whereas they might have restrained themselves in the past. It is very creepy; I see it at work when some of my colleagues treat foreign customers differently from others, quite often in a very subtle ways. Makes me shudder.

  13. amnesiaclinic May 2, 2014 at 1:17 pm - Reply

    Reblogged this on amnesiaclinic and commented:
    I wish him the best of luck with his fight against cancer. I hope he recovers well and lives a long and happy life. But whatever happens he should not be harassed by the DWP and have his benefits cut. Wrong! Yes, opinions have been hardened and this is what we have to work on as well. Justice, empathy, fairness and compassion all should feature in his dealings with government in a civilised society. I hope he has a good advocate to fight for him.

  14. […] The internet has been buzzing with outrage over the DWP’s treatment of Pete Woodcock, together with a disgraceful level of judgement that Mike Sivier highlights with his usual elegance over at Vox Political. […]

  15. thoughtfullyprepping May 2, 2014 at 1:41 pm - Reply

    The wife said shaking her head in disbelief, “That’s disgusting, that’s madness”.
    I replied,”No dear, that’s the UK of today”.

    She just looked at me and hasn’t said a word for over a hour.

    • Mike Sivier May 2, 2014 at 1:45 pm - Reply

      Show her the angry responses and tell her that’s today’s UK as well – and there are more of us than them.

    • hstorm May 2, 2014 at 2:20 pm - Reply

      ‘ “That’s disgusting, that’s madness”.
      I replied,”No dear, that’s the UK of today”. ‘

      Is there a difference? :-/

  16. Hermes May 2, 2014 at 1:52 pm - Reply

    I think it is mob mentality. For my sins, I listen to LBC every day. It is full of people blaming the poor for being poor, blaming the sick for their ill-health and so on. The relentless narrative of hatred is overwhelming. If I were also to read the Mail, Sun or Express the effect of this bile would double. Hearing people saying the unacceptable makes it commonplace. The government encourage the bullying atmosphere and let the herding instinct take over: I do see the ‘Nudge Unit’ at work here, though, as in social media’s swamping by Tory / UKIP hate-spouting commentators.

    This poor man is effectively being told to eff off and die by the DWP. It is beyond callous into a realm of sociopathy. That a chorus of vile locals are willing his death too is distressing. These are extreme times we live in and there is literally a climate of fear being created.

  17. […] The internet has been buzzing with outrage over the DWP’s treatment of Pete Woodcock, together with a disgraceful level of judgement that Mike Sivier highlights with his usual elegance over at Vox Political. […]

  18. chunkyfunkymunky May 2, 2014 at 6:58 pm - Reply

    Reblogged this on chunkyfunkymunky.

  19. beastrabban May 2, 2014 at 7:48 pm - Reply

    Reblogged this on Beastrabban’s Weblog and commented:
    This is truly disgusting, and truly deplorable indictment of the barbarity of the Coalition’s Britain and the petty-minded jealousy and sadism that supports it. Of course there have been people like this poor fellow’s critics for years. There seems to be a compulsive need by a certain section of society to begrudge any kind of state support, no matter how poor or unfortunate the victim is. Quite often the mindset behind it expresses itself as ‘Well, I pay my taxes, and have to work, why should these scroungers live off my money?’ It’s the same kind of ungenerous attitude that props up Conservative regimes all over the world. Quite often the same people moaning about government support for others hypocritically also whine when the same government does not provide financial assistance for them. Some of this mentality does seem to be based on a desire, as one of Mike’s commenters, rogerharris, observes, to reassert their position in the social hierarchy. It’s the compulsive need of the petit bourgeois to resent and bully those beneath him, who are perceived as not as deserving as himself. And it’s being promoted by decades of Right-wing ideology, from Thatcher onwards.

    • rogerharris May 2, 2014 at 8:24 pm - Reply

      This attitude is mental switch that happens in many people under pressure while they are struggling to find their way. Its a universal facet of how minds work. They experience hardship, take it onboard and if they have a scapegoat or real problem group to work against they can switch to the right. Especially if they find this switch improving their lives they can turn into crusaders worse than established conservatives. Esther Mcvey is a typical example of this. She comes across as a very damaged person, but her rabid narcissism wont allow her to perceive it, as most of her process has become about projection. It’s no longer a typical resource game for these crusaders… they are far worse.. it’s a serious belief in one’s own bulls**t. A self-deceiving mental state so full of cognitive bias that throwing out objective analysis (like stats to IDS) on their positions burns like holy water.

  20. Jean Casale May 2, 2014 at 8:34 pm - Reply

    “At 2.10pm on the afternoon of Tuesday, 27th March 2012, immediately after prayers from the Lord Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, The Health and Social Care Bill repealing the legal foundations of the NHS in England was given royal assent and became law.” – NHS SOS

    We did not vote for the abolition of the NHS. Neither was it part of the Coalition agreement. And, unlike those citizens who reside in England, citizens of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will continue to have an NHS – under the law. – NHS SOS

    5th July 2013 – 15 months later – NHS 65th Anniversary
    Cameron said: “Our National Health Service is one of the most precious institutions we have…. I will never forget the care my son Ivan received…. So I yield to no-one in my love of the NHS. But I also believe we don’t demonstrate that love by covering up things that go wrong.

    Not one word about his decimation and actual privatisation of the NHS.

  21. DaveD May 2, 2014 at 9:40 pm - Reply

    Reblogged this on DaveD's Blog.

  22. johnny void May 2, 2014 at 11:59 pm - Reply

    strange story this, with no disrespect at all to the person concerned, there seems to have been some errors made in either the reporting or his claim – no-one is getting £140 a week Jobseekers Allowance (it’s £72.40 a week) and JSA is paid at a lower rate than ESA, although if he’s still in the assessment phase then he should be on about the same money, but if he’s in the support group of ESA then the rate is £106.50 a week

    • Mike Sivier May 3, 2014 at 12:52 am - Reply

      This did occur to me as I was doing the article. What seems most likely is that the newspaper rolled together all of his income for the sake of simplicity. There isn’t any way of knowing how his income is composed, so I didn’t speculate. Obviously newspapers have a duty to be accurate with their factual information, so I don’t think there’s any reason to suggest that the Scunthorpe Telegraph has been wrong or made a mistake.

      • Sasson Hann May 3, 2014 at 7:40 am - Reply

        It’s probably the rate you receive as a couple since he said that he had a family to keep out of the reduced income.

      • johnny void May 3, 2014 at 1:36 pm - Reply

        yeah appreciate that, just can’t think of any reason someone would have less due to being transferred from JSA to ESA, unless he’s actually been sanctioned for not attending the jobclub, which might explain the impact on the total household income. Its not uncommon for the press to fuck up stories about benefits.

    • Joanna May 3, 2014 at 8:18 am - Reply

      I’m in the support group, and my weekly money is £123.50 per week. That is on it’s own, without DLA. So my money comes up to £247 per fortnight.

      • Joanna May 3, 2014 at 8:24 am - Reply

        This amount I get, which has been pointed out to me, is much more than the state pension! It is totally wrong that pensioners, especially todays pensioners, should have to exist in their final years, on such a tiny amount of money!

        To me this is Inhuman!!!

  23. mark Dench May 3, 2014 at 7:15 am - Reply

    the rich get richer the poor get poorer. absolutely disgusting. yet again the state get it wrong!!!!! makes my blood boil

  24. alan May 3, 2014 at 10:34 am - Reply

    There remains feet and toe kissing people within civil society toward those whom they look upon as their masters. These are they that inform us to attend a ballot station is what we should do, even though no upright party to cast a vote for. These people soon complain when things go wrong for them, and they make their voices known.

  25. victhemike May 3, 2014 at 4:11 pm - Reply

    It wouldn’t surprise me at all if these comments were actually made by government shills at CCHQ or even GCHQ.

    I’ve noticed similar stuff myself in a number of forums usually saying stuff about how the unemployed still get up 2000 per year free health insurance, so they’re still all scroungers etc…
    I suspect it’s all part of Call Me Dave’s nudge theory. The Snowden revelations also back this up see:-

    No doubt the public are being softened up for more ‘well needed reforms’.

  26. argotina1 May 4, 2014 at 10:48 am - Reply

    Reblogged this on Benefit tales.

  27. […] Vox Political supporter (and McKenzie friend at the recent Freedom of Information tribunal on benefit claimant mortality) Glynis Millward has provided an interesting follow-up on the article about cancer sufferer Pete Woodcock. […]

  28. Poppy Reece May 6, 2014 at 4:47 pm - Reply

    Cannot believe this story. I think programmes like ‘Benefits Street’ and ‘On Benefits and Proud’ have a lot to do with the right-wing change in people’s views, there seem to be more and more programmes like this being made all the time.

    I wrote about this on and Dancing Giraffe –

  29. John Wilson May 9, 2014 at 9:50 am - Reply

    Can everyone reading this please support and tweet etc. these campaign links, as this is a Human Rights issue, which the Government has neither respected nor even acknowledged exists as Economic, Social and Cultural Rights haven’t been included in the so called Human Rights Act of 1998:-



    The Council of Europe and its European Convention of 1950 also violated these rights because that ‘group of States’ collectively decided to ignore The International Bill of Human Rights, and only include some of those rights in their ‘Convention’.

    That was just the beginning of their State violations of The International Bill of Human Rights, and of course no individuals or ‘groups’ of campaigners have ever been able to take them to task over this, because they too ‘divide and conquer’ to suppress us.

  30. George Berger May 30, 2014 at 6:41 pm - Reply

    Compare and contrast. The Dutch healthcare system was privatised on 1 Jan, 2006 (it was never fully public). The private insurers are in a quango with civil servants, which determines policy each year. The new law gives the insurers a lot of leeway to act. Several months ago they announced that specialists will get a bonus each time they ceased treatment of a patient whom they considered too ill to live for long. The main medical professional organisation agrees with the plan and I’ve heard of no action against it. Now, if this goes through, many patients will be in danger of legal ending of their lives, by a formalised practice that can be applied arbitrarily. With variations depending on country, the evil inflicted on Mr Woodcock might well become routine through some or all EU countries.

  31. ellie12022 June 5, 2014 at 10:12 pm - Reply

    Under JSA someone may have qualified for a disability premium which does not exist the same under ESA. That is one reason the money may be less. You see how little things are taken away the same time as things get reorganised, yet we are told we won’t be worse off..

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