Claimant death: A letter to Dame Anne Begg

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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  1. Tony Fisher December 12, 2014 at 12:42 pm - Reply

    I know of job centre plus adviser who got sacked for being to lenient with his clients, he was too caring, This person is a friend of mine , he now has severe mental health problems himself now as a consequence . He stood up to the system and was victimized.

  2. concernedkev December 12, 2014 at 1:37 pm - Reply

    If the job centre staff were aware this poor soul had mental health issues, and my experience tells me it is often self evident, then they should have had the gumption to tell him to seek medical help. It would seem this man should have been on ESA support group because he would have been exempt under Regs 29 and 35 from work related activity group. The recruitment policies at DWP must have changed.

  3. chopale December 12, 2014 at 2:24 pm - Reply

    When you are of no fixed abode. it’s very hard to register for a doctor. you need a care of address. for E.S.A. you need a medical certificate. and there won’t be any curt they will get any money straight away. as the system is designed to stress people.

  4. Tony Dean December 12, 2014 at 2:32 pm - Reply

    Mike the Work and Pensions Committee already has an enquiry under way about sanctions and are asking for evidence, details and link to evidence submission form here:-

  5. Rupert Mitchell (@rupert_rrl) December 12, 2014 at 3:20 pm - Reply

    I most certainly agree that the staff at the DWP should ALL stand up to the rotten system and refuse to jeopardise sick and mentally ill people. If they joined a union that would back them it would be of assistance. I certainly could not live with my conscience if I jeopardised someone’s health and future by sticking to a rotten draconian Dickensian sham of an assistance office.

    I most sincerely hope that those responsible from the top downwards will be brought to justice when we get a decent government next year.

  6. chriskitcher December 12, 2014 at 3:28 pm - Reply

    Yet again we have the Nazi mind set in our midst. “I was only following orders”, it didn’t absolve the murders at the Nuremberg trials and if we to have learnt anything form that it must not be allowed to work here. The person responsible for the harshness of the sanctions regime needs to be called to account and a stop put to this evil practise.

  7. Jeffery Davies December 12, 2014 at 3:39 pm - Reply

    Terrible isnt it but then talking at that once great house sees more
    deaths more sanctions while they robustly fill out their reports brown
    shirts are coming but while you like me bombard mps with letters
    emails they will talk but then its full of old bull when will they all stand
    up pointing across that room at them telling em straight killers just like
    denis did but dont think the abuse will stop it isnt jeff3

  8. BizzieLizzie December 12, 2014 at 4:14 pm - Reply

    I think the staff tend to sanction vulnerable people in order to meet their targets. They know that they are less likely to argue their case or know their rights. It is disgraceful and this matter should be investigated immediately. I dont know how that member of staff can live with themselves after this, I know I couldn’t.

  9. Gordon Powrie December 12, 2014 at 4:30 pm - Reply

    Kev, I would say that, if the JCP staff knew that he had problems, surely it was part of their duty of care to organise care for him, never mind anything else.

  10. Samuel Miller (@Hephaestus7) December 12, 2014 at 4:54 pm - Reply

    Select Committees (including the Work and Pensions Committee) are prohibited from investigating individual cases, probably due to barriers presented by the Data Protection Act. The best option is a public inquiry, but that likely won’t happen.

    Prime Minister David Cameron was wrong to brush off calls for change following the death of diabetic ex-soldier, David Clapson, whose benefits had been stopped. The DWP and Jobcentre may have followed their procedures in that case, but they failed to address the central issue: Is it right to sanction a diabetic so that he couldn’t afford to eat or put credit on his electricity card to keep the fridge where he kept his insulin working? Clapson died from diabetic ketoacidosis, caused by a severe lack of insulin. A pile of CVs was found next to his body.

    That’s why I have called upon the Labour Party, if elected, to pause and review the appropriateness of benefit sanctions on ESA claimants; and, I’m warning of more tragic additions to my list of welfare-related deaths ( if the plight of Britain’s sick and disabled isn’t ameliorated.

  11. izzythedram December 12, 2014 at 5:19 pm - Reply

    I don’t know what I would have done if I had been a German in the days of Nazism, if say I had a family to look after.

    I hope that I would not have been complicit in persecuting anyone but I can’t know that.

    The DWP worker may have been terrified of losing his /her job.

    That doesn’t change the fact that they should not have sanctioned this man but I am just wary of piling too much blame onto an individual whose circs we don’t know….

    • Mike Sivier December 12, 2014 at 8:11 pm - Reply

      Having walked out of several jobs on matters of principle, I’m not sure I can sympathise.

    • HomerJS December 13, 2014 at 10:12 am - Reply

      This is going right back to Nuremberg. The concentration guards may have feared for their own lives, but that was not a good enough excuse for what they did. As Mike has said, there are other options available.

      • herobladedge December 14, 2014 at 9:13 pm - Reply

        You people really are idiots. People in a secure job going to walk out to protect people from government policies?? Are you listening to yourselves comparing them to concentration camp kapos. The kapos did have a choice: do what they were told or strip and go into the gas chamber. Their survival mode took over when they realised they had a glimmer of a chance. Some of the ones who refused were thrown alive into the ovens. This kind of crap that you are posting just diverts the attention away from the REAL people causing the misery. Very sad.

        • Mike Sivier December 14, 2014 at 10:22 pm - Reply

          Now you are deliberately misinterpreting what has been said here. Who mentioned “concentration camp kapos” before you? Nobody. Whatever choices they had were completely different from those of the German soldiers – I’ll write that again: German soldiers – who ran the camps.
          Get a grip; your silly tactics won’t work here.

  12. Tim December 12, 2014 at 5:29 pm - Reply

    I’m not sure about Anne Begg. I’ve heard her say some darn stupid things on many occasions leading me to believe that she has only a partial understanding of many of the things she scrutinizes: her grasp of Universal Credit, for example, leaves much to be desired.

  13. loobitzh December 12, 2014 at 7:13 pm - Reply

    all JCP staff undergo training designed via the governments ‘Nudge Unit; aka Psychological Insights Team. They use ‘Operant Conditioning’ and Punishment, Carrot and Stick, primarily the use of coercion and fear on their Staff, as well as on their Clients.

    One of Cameron’s mates once read a book about how to ‘persuade’ people to do stuff they wouldn’t ordinarily do. So the gov hire a bunch of psychologists, put them together in a think tank, and get them to brain storm, using their expertise and theoretical knowledge as a base for their ideas. Just ideas however.

    But then the Tories, take a look at their ideas, spread a layer of Authoritarianism ideology on top of it and Bingo. Social Mind Control in Mass.

    This is not new however, after Germanys defeat of the 2nd world war, USA UK and Canada jumped on the chance of employing German Scientists, there were many, but the ones relevant here were those who were researching and experimenting on the Jews etc in the camps. Look up MKULTRA. its no conspiracy. The USA has openly admitted in court that these atrocities took place. They conducted experiments in Mind Control.

    Anyway, Many of the Scientists after leaving Germany were employed by the government through the ‘Tavistock Institute’. To start with they were trying to investigate how to cure whats now considered to be Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for veterans returning from the war.

    The thing about the Tavistock institute, is that it did split up, one arm went off to America where their focus became far more interested in Behavioural Psychology.

    For this Break off USA group of psychologists, rather than looking at people as complex individuals, they tended to view people as mere ‘Conditioned Responses’.

    They then went on to develop all the large Think Tanks such as ‘Rand’ etc, which have influence in Many of the worlds large power houses, corporations. because they preach this stuff to governments, who then subvert it into policy making.

    Google Tavistock, and MKUltra There is much about them .

    With regards to Tavistock in the UK. It is apparently a different organisation, but does hold contracts with many government departments, advising on Policy decision Making etc.

    With regards to JC Advisors, now called ‘Work Coaches’ Ha Ha Ha !!!!

    The way the DWP has set up the Advisors and Decision makers reminds me of a psychological experiment (which was deemed unethical) look up.

    Stanley Milgram’s Obedience to Authority’

    • Mike Sivier December 12, 2014 at 8:18 pm - Reply

      All very interesting. Do you have a reference for the training you mention in the first paragraph?

  14. David K. December 12, 2014 at 11:25 pm - Reply

    You’re absolutely right, Mike: the pressure on a Job Centre employee to do Cameron and Duncan Smith’s dirty work is nothing like that experienced by German civilians complicit in Hitler’s murderous regime. No sympathy at all for the Job Centre employee who will stitch someone up because they are “terrified of losing his /her job.” That’s a weak excuse indeed. Walking out on principle is the only thing to do. If you can’t afford to just resign on the spot, you start looking for alternative employment immediately and avoid screwing other people over for as long as it takes to get yourself out of there.

  15. herobladedge December 14, 2014 at 6:48 pm - Reply

    Any of you who think Jobcentre staff can change anything, ask yourselves why banker bonuses are so high. Is it the tellers on the counter who should refuse to do their jobs to get this changed? Hospital waiting times are ridiculous, people die, should doctors and nurses refuse to do their jobs till this gets changed? The police are so thin on the ground they only solve one of every three crimes. Do they refuse to work till this gets changed? Do these people just go on indefinite strike? Disobey their bosses? Lose their jobs and suffer? You people who think this are literally the most moronic c**ts on the planet.

    • Mike Sivier December 14, 2014 at 6:57 pm - Reply

      How ridiculous. If you are going to make comparisons then the least you should do is try to compare like-with-like.
      As it is you have merely managed to make yourself look stupid in front of 10,000 (or so) readers.
      Also your use of foul language is a further indication of your lack of mental agility.

      • herobladedge December 14, 2014 at 8:35 pm - Reply

        You are blaming staff members for administering rules they have no say in!! If they don’t, they lose their jobs. Would you sacrifice your job to make a point? None of you would. You deluded idiots. Imagine thinking some poor b*****d working in a Jobcentre can make Iain Duncan Smith see sense. Jesus!!!

        • Mike Sivier December 14, 2014 at 10:18 pm - Reply

          People do quit jobs on matters of principle. I’ve already mentioned having done it several times myself.
          As for “blaming staff members for administering rules they have no say in” – that is precisely why the German soldiers at the extermination camps said they were “only following orders” (The Nuremberg Defence that we have been discussing on this blog). It cut no ice with those who stood in judgement over them in 1945 and should cut no ice with any of us, 70 years later. In both cases, people have died because those orders were followed.
          I think you came here in the hope that you could bully readers of this blog into quietening down. Think again.

  16. Gavin December 15, 2014 at 12:11 am - Reply

    ave seen this DWP document released under freedom of information. See page 6

    • Mike Sivier December 15, 2014 at 12:14 am - Reply

      Gavin, I’m one of the many people who’ve been challenging the DWP to update it for the past two years!
      Check out “Vox Political DWP death tribunal” on your favourite search engine and you should find some useful information.

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