The Conservative victory in December’s general election has given Boris Johnson free reign to torture the UK’s poorest people.
Amazingly, there are some in the country who either haven’t noticed, or refuse to accept the reality of the harm that is being done.
So this article by Red Revolution is timely. It states:
The Court of Appeal found that the Tory government discriminated against disabled people through the unfair and cruel practices of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The finding confirmed in law what millions have known since 2010, that the Tory government is engaging in nothing less than what can be described as a process of social cleansing through the DWP.
Just last year the United Nations condemned the Tory government, a report comparing British welfare policies to the creation of workhouses. Philip Alston, the UN rapporteur on extreme poverty, accused the Tories of the “systematic immiseration of a significant part of the British population”.
Such is the level of misery inflicted on the British public that many have suggested that the poor and vulnerable are headed back to Victorian levels of inequality and poverty.
Given that people are literally freezing and starving to death, it’s not hard to see the point.
Bear in mind the fact that the UK, with a $2.83 trillion GDP, is the fifth-largest economy in the world.
The piece goes on to tell the stories of 10 infamous cases, including some that have been covered on This Site: Errol Graham, Mark Wood, Andrew Clarke, David Clapson, Mark Smith, Chris Gold, Danielle White, Elaine Morrall, ‘Alice’ and Stephen Smith.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
Today – November 11 – is Remembrance Day. To mark the occasion, the Conservative Party announced a series of policies for ex-servicepeople.
Here’s one of them:
We are introducing a new Veterans' Railcard, giving those who've served our country a third off their travel. We will continue to support veterans and recognise their service to our country.https://t.co/ZA7e8wTYcz
They have also announced extra childcare for military families and a law to protect veterans from “vexatious” legal action connected with their activities in the Armed Forces.
You may think that seems like a nice package.
What they do:
This is David Clapson:
He was a Lance Corporal in the Royal Signals serving in Belfast at the height of the troubles before leaving the army to work for BT. After working for the telecommunications firm for 16 years he became a carer for his elderly mother.
He suffered with Type 1 Diabetes and relied on regular insulin injections to survive.
Ordered to claim Jobseekers’ Allowance by the Tory-run Department for Work and Pensions, his payments were stopped after he missed an appointment and he died three weeks later, of diabetic shock, on July 20, 2013.
He had been unable to pay for the electricity to keep his insulin at the right temperature, meaning it had become unusable.
He had less than £4 to his name, and died with an empty stomach.
The Tories can say what they want and it won’t mean a thing.
This is what the Conservatives do to our ex-servicepeople.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
Maria Caulfield is the clueless Conservative MP for Lewes, in east Sussex. She is a former nurse and the wife of an ex-serviceman – which makes her ill-advised criticism of a Labour campaign group all the more ignorant.
It seems Tooting Labour Party were out campaigning yesterday (November 11) – and Ms Caulfield took umbrage at the apparent absence of poppies from the photograph they posted on Twitter:
… while only one person is visibly wearing a poppy and four are not, we cannot tell whether the other 13 are wearing poppies or not.
It seems to This Writer that Ms Caulfield was, therefore, trying to score a cheap political point rather than expressing any genuine outrage – and I am not alone.
Twitter responded with its usual flair for accuracy. Ms Caulfield was – metaphorically, at least – tarred and feathered. I use the term advisedly, as it was an unofficial form of punishment and humiliation, often used on those who did not support the services, and remains a term for severe public criticism.
This Poppy Fascist has some cheek when the Tories cut support for the disabled, including ex-services. Concern one day a year says all you need to know about some Con MPs https://t.co/Ts4HxCOM3m
For an example of Conservative regard for ex-servicepeople, Ms Caulfield was urged to consider the case of David Clapson. Diabetic Mr Clapson – a former serviceman – is no longer with us because the Conservative-run Department for Work and Pensions decided to make him starve to death.
Here’s a pertinent point from Clive Lewis. He may be under investigation after allegations were made against him, but his willingness to stand up for the veterans speaks volumes:
If you knew anything about history and your Party’s shameful treatment of working class veterans after the WW1 you’d pipe down quick time. Look up ‘Geddes Axe’ then tell us who should be ashamed. https://t.co/x928SaghSK
a reminder that @MariaCaulfieldMP made cheap shots yesterday about lab not wearing poppies, they were were yet *7,000 soldiers left to ROT on our streets: Today we demand HOMES FOR …. homeless veterans need, support, shelter and immediate mental health care..
Only hours ago (at the time of writing), This Blog stated that the Conservative Government imposed a draconian, financially-crippling sanction system on jobseekers because they don’t want to pay any money to people who are out of work and simply don’t care if those people come to harm as a result.
Now we have figures showing that the number of sanctions is increasing – dramatically, in the case of Employment and Support Allowance claimants.
These are people who have long-term illnesses and need that money to survive.
Who is monitoring the health of these people while their sanction runs its course? Not the DWP!
And not Her Majesty’s Coroners, either, it seems.
Hertfordshire’s senior coroner, Geoffrey Sullivan, has refused to order an inquest into the death of David Clapson – on very shaky grounds, it seems to This Writer.
He said: “The evidence does not support either a direct or contributory causal link between the imposition of the benefit sanction and Mr Clapson’s death.
“In addition… there is no evidence as to whether the benefit sanction was imposed properly or not.”
Oh, really? So the fact he had less than £4 to his name, an empty stomach, and had not been able to pay for the electricity to keep his insulin at the right temperature did not suggest a link with the withdrawal of his benefits – his only means of financial support?
I don’t think that will stand up in court – which, by the way, is exactly where it is going.
Mr Clapson’s sister, Gill Thompson, has set up a crowdfunding account to pay for the latest stage in her legal battle, and to take the case to the high court.
It raised more than £5,000 of an initial £10,000 target within 48 hours but I’m still going over there to contribute, just as soon as I’ve finished this article.
I strongly urge you to do the same.
The sister of a disabled man who died after being left destitute by having his benefits sanctioned is to seek the help of the high court after a coroner refused for the second time to hold an inquest into his death.
David Clapson (pictured), who had diabetes, died in 2013 as a result of an acute lack of insulin, three weeks after having his jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) sanctioned.
Because he had no money, he couldn’t afford to pay for electricity that would have kept the fridge where he kept his insulin working, in the height of summer, and he had also run out of food.
But despite the circumstances of his death, and clear links with the sanctions system, no inquest was ever held.
Now Clapson’s sister, Gill Thompson, is to ask the high court for a judicial review of the coroner’s decision not to hold an inquest.
David Clapson when he was in the army … he was found dead in 2013, after his benefits were stopped.
We all know the circumstances of David Clapson’s death but too many people – Amelia Gentleman included (in her article of 2014, below) – are pussyfooting around the cause.
It isn’t that sanctions were imposed too harshly on him, but we still accept the need for benefit claimants to be sanctioned if they fail to search for jobs in a meaningful way – because we know Mr Clapson was searching in a meaningful way, and he was still sanctioned.
It’s that the Conservative Government imposed a draconian, financially-crippling sanction system on jobseekers because they don’t want to pay any money to people who are out of work and simply don’t care if those people come to harm as a result.
In fact, they would prefer it because they would never have to pay those people again.
In short, they want jobseekers to die.
Isn’t it time we were honest about that?
Then – perhaps – we could be honest about how we should respond to it.
We know that David Clapson was actively searching for work when he died because a pile of CVs he had just printed out was found a few metres from his body. The last time he spoke to his sister, a few days before he died, he told her he was waiting to hear back about an application he had made to the supermarket chain Lidl.
But officials at the Jobcentre believed he was not taking his search for work seriously enough, and early last July, they sanctioned him – cutting off his benefit payments entirely, as a punishment for his failure to attend two appointments.
Clapson, 59, who had diabetes, died in his flat in Stevenage on 20 July 2013, from diabetic ketoacidosis (caused by an acute lack of insulin). When Gill Thompson, his younger sister, discovered his body, she found his electricity had been cut off (meaning that the fridge where he kept his insulin was no longer working). There was very little left to eat in the flat – six tea bags, an out-of-date tin of sardines and a can of tomato soup. His pay-as-you-go mobile phone had just 5p credit left on it and he had only £3.44 in his bank account. The autopsy notes reveal that his stomach was empty.
The late David Clapson, who died after his benefit was cut [Image: change.org petition site].
Vox Political welcomes the formal request for an inquest into the death of ex-soldier David Clapson.
His is a story This Blog has followed since his death was first reported, back in July 2013.
Mr Clapson, a former Lance Corporal in the Royal Signals, died of fatal diabetic ketoacidosis caused by a severe lack of insulin.
He had been unable to keep his insulin at the correct temperature because he was on benefits and these had been sanctioned – meaning he had no money to buy electricity for his fridge.
A post-mortem found that his stomach was completely empty. His sister Gill Thompson said he died with six tea bags, an out-of-date sardine tin and a can of tomato soup to his name – and a pile of CVs next to his body.
The DWP has refused to accept any causal relationship between the withdrawal of benefits and the deaths of claimants – but this may change after Ms Thompson lodged official papers with the Hertfordshire Coroner on October 28, “on the basis that he died an unnatural death due to the imposition and effects of the benefit sanction… in force at the time of his death”.
If it does, it seems likely that coroners across the country may receive many more formal requests for reconsideration of other deaths that took place in similar circumstances.
David Clapson is far from the only person to have died after losing benefits.
Both local coroners and the DWP have managed to turn away such calls – the former most commonly by claiming deaths were from natural causes, while the latter has refused to act on calls to review benefit-related deaths.
But this case could set a precedent that may become impossible to ignore.
No doubt the DWP, the Tory Government and the right-wing media will do their utmost to ensure as few people know about this as possible.
So please tell everybody you know – and tell them to tell everybody they know, too.
It’s time we got to the heart of the benefit death scandal.
The family of David Clapson, the former British soldier who died after his benefits were sanctioned, has formally requested an inquest into his death.
After David died in July 2013, the coroner turned down further investigation and an inquest, ruling that his death was due to natural causes. But, backed by the Daily Mirror, Mrs Thompson has fought for three years for a public investigation.
Leigh Day law firm says there is a “strong public interest” in a fresh investigation because “a benefit sanction arguably played a contributing or causative factor in the death”.
The legal submission to the coroner states: “The role played by the imposition of a benefit sanction in Mr. Clapson’s death, the systems in place to manage the risks posed by benefit sanctions to those who receive them, and the decision-making of DWP staff when imposing benefit sanctions on vulnerable and at-risk individuals, are of wider public importance and are matters of significant public concern.
“These matters have been considered in a number of reviews and reports, which support Ms. Thompson’s submissions on the strong public interest in this case.”
In a letter to David’s MP, the DWP stated they were “aware Mr Clapson was insulin dependent”.
In 2014, Mrs Thompson started a petition with Change.org that gained over 200,000 signatures which helped to secure a Parliamentary Select Committee Inquiry in March 2015. However, the Government rejected the Select Committee recommendation that the number of peer reviews into deaths of persons subject to a sanction be made public.
The Government also rejected Ms Thompson’s calls for an Independent Review into David’s death and the deaths of others in similar circumstances and of an independent body to conduct more reviews into the deaths of those in receipt of ‘working-age’ benefits.
Tonight’s edition of the BBC’s Newsnight did not feature Conservative or Labour Parliamentary candidates in a debate on welfare – because the Conservative Party pulled out at the last minute, according to a tweet from Labour’s shadow Work and Pensions secretary, Rachel Reeves.
Fellow tweeter Anita Bellows immediately asked: “What have they got to hide?” including this image as an attachment:
The reference is obvious – David Clapson is the benefit claimant whose case was raised by Andrew Marr in his interview with David Cameron on Sunday.
Cameron’s responses indicate that he seems to think it was right for Mr Clapson to die as punishment for missing a single Job Centre appointment (for reasons that have not been disclosed). He refused to accept that the system should be reviewed.
The interview caused outrage among members of the public and now we can see the Conservatives’ reaction.
Like all bullies, they like to torture the weak. When public opinion rises up against them and they have a choice between “fight” and “flight”, they run like rabbits.
David Cameron tries to defend the indefensible on Andrew Marr’s Sunday morning TV show.
Soon-to-be-former Prime Minister David Cameron, the man who once told us a government should be judged on how well it treats the most vulnerable in society, showed us all exactly what he meant in his interview with Andrew Marr.
It means he is quite happy for them to die, as punishment for failing to attend an interview at the Job Centre. Grilled over his attitude, he made it clear that he was perfectly happy to allow the continuation of a system that kills – if it saves money.
AM:. Well you also talked to Evan Davis about the £22 billion of welfare cuts you’ve made so far as if that was easy. Do you accept that has hurt a lot of poor and vulnerable people?
DC: Well it has involved difficult decisions. But of course as we’ve done that we’ve been getting two million people into work, 900,000 people…
AM: Difficult decisions for you; a lot of real pain and suffering for people out there.
DC: Well, we have protected, for instance, the pension, we’ve protected benefits for the lowest paid, we’ve always made sure that we’ve increased spending on disability benefits rather than reduced it. But crucially the 900,000 people we’ve got off welfare and into work – that has actually saved money but it’s also been good for our country and crucially good for them: a job is the best route out of poverty that there is [a lie; more working people are having to claim benefits, because their jobs don’t pay enough, than workless families and pensioners combined].
AM: What about the million people depending on food banks?
DC: Well obviously I want a country where people don’t depend on food banks, we did something-
AM: But why are more people depending on food banks?
DC: One of the things we did was that Labour – because they didn’t like the PR of this – they didn’t advertise or promote the existence of food banks through job centres. We changed that because we thought that was, that was basically sort of selfish and shortminded…
AM: And according to the Trussell Trust, who run these banks, that accounts for just three per cent of people using food banks at the moment so it’s not a significant thing. But can I take you to an individual case, James [he meant David] Clapson.
Clapson, who was a former soldier, worked very hard for a long time then was on benefits, failed to turn up to two job centre interviews, [Mr Clapson only missed one interview] had his benefits removed for a month. He was diabetic, his insulin couldn’t be refrigerated and he died two weeks later.
Now that is the kind of case that is coming up again and again and again and shows that the welfare cuts have been agonisingly painful for real people out there.
DM: Well we have hardship funds and councils have hardship funds for exactly those sorts of tragic cases but if you’re asking me…
AM: It didn’t work.
DC: If you are asking me, is it right that people who are asked to turn up for interviews or asked to fill in a CV or asked to apply for a job should have to do those things before getting benefits then yes – it’s right that we do have that system in place. But we always, as I put it on the steps of…
AM: But the system has been very very aggressive. Another case [is] of a man who had learning difficulties and filled in his form by hand rather than by computer and was refused benefits. There [are] lots of these cases as you won’t have a review. You should have a review of the system surely?
DC: I look at all of those individual cases and all of those cases can be addressed by the hardship funds and by the flexibilities that are there in the system. But we have sanctions for a reason; people watching this programme…
AM: You don’t get the hardship fund for two weeks.
So there you have it. David Clapson was sanctioned off-benefit for no very good reason (as is typical in the Conservative-run system). David Cameron thinks that is okay. He was unable to receive hardship funds for two weeks. David Cameron thinks that is okay.
He died. Because David Cameron thinks the sanctions and the rules for hardship funds are okay, he therefore must be perfectly comfortable with David Clapson’s death.
David Cameron has also refused to review the system, despite being told that Clapson’s is one of many, many cases and despite saying that he personally examines all such cases.
Clearly he is, therefore, perfectly comfortable with the mass deaths of benefit claimants, the sick and the disabled that have taken place under his government’s rules.
This blog has long argued that any deaths of benefit claimants that have taken place because of failings in the system are regrettable but do not, individually, mean that anybody is personally responsible.
However, this blog has also argued – for many years – that this ceases to be the case when the government is made aware of the deaths and either fails – or intentionally ignores – the need to review and change the system.
In such cases, it becomes clear that the intention is to cause those deaths.
If deaths take place due to the gross negligence of a person or people responsible for an organisation such as a government department, that is corporate homicide.
If deaths take place because such a person has been informed of the risk to life and refused to take action, there is a strong argument to state, that is murder.
(The refusal to take action implies an intention for people to lose their lives.)
Therefore there is a strong argument that David Cameron has confessed that his party has participated in the murder of many benefit claimants.
Rachel Reeves: The coalition has distorted the benefit debate so much that 64 per cent of Labour voters think benefits should be cut – and she doesn’t have the backbone to correct them.
Here’s a question that gets asked very often in any debate on state benefits: “Isn’t it right that the taxpayer should only support people who really need it?”
The implication is that the government of the day is right to restrict benefit provision.
The answer, of course, is to point at some of the cases we have known, in which benefits have been taken away from people; cases like that of David Clapson, an ex-soldier who was sanctioned off of Jobseekers’ Allowance and died of diabetic ketoacidosis three weeks into the sanction period. When his body was found by a friend, his electricity card was out of credit, meaning the fridge where he kept the insulin he used to treat his diabetes was not working. A coroner found that when David died there was no food in his stomach. Was the government right to restrict his benefits? Or was this state-sponsored murder?
How about severely bipolar Sheila Holt, who recently died after spending months in a coma caused by a heart attack she suffered after being pushed onto the government’s slave-labour Work Programme? Even while she was comatose, the work programme provider – Seetec – was sending her letters about her suitability for employment. There is no doubt that the stress of being forced onto the Work Programme led to her death – in fact the government has apologised for its actions. It therefore seems redundant to ask the question, “Was the government right to restrict her benefits?” as we already know the answer.
How about Karen Sherlock, who was suffering from kidney failure when her Employment and Support Allowance was cut off by Iain Duncan Smith’s minions. She died, apparently of a heart attack, after an operation was cancelled. Was the government right to restrict her benefits?
How about Stephanie Bottrill, who took her own life by walking in front of a lorry on the M6, just one month after the Bedroom Tax had been introduced by Iain Duncan Smith. Her rent at the time was £320 per month, some of which was subsidised by Housing Benefit – but the imposition of an extra £80 charge, to come from her own money, was too much for her finances to take. She left a note to relatives in which she made clear that she had taken her own life – and that she blamed the government. Was the government right to restrict her benefits?
According to the last figures available to us (from 2011 – and related to ESA alone), four more people die as a result of the government’s benefit regime every three hours – more than 200 every week. These figures are, however, more than three years old; they do not encompass the rise in suicides that takes place in the run-up to Christmas every year and they pre-date the effects of Iain Duncan Smith’s homicidal Welfare Reform Act 2012.
Meanwhile, as Polly Toynbee has pointed out in her latest Guardianarticle, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary puts her foot in her mouth every time she talks about benefits. “She has the hardest shadow post, reconciling the party’s mission to stand with the underdog while facing a public fed by a stream of statistics-free anecdotes about welfare cheats,” writes Ms Toynbee.
That’s as may be, but she should be challenging those preconceptions, not conforming to them. “When last in power Labour failed to shift the enemy’s terms of engagement, hiding its own good actions behind tough talk,” writes Ms Toynbee.
“This mirrors too much Labour policy, foggy messages hiding agonised ambivalence – and voters smell out that inauthentic verbal triangulation.”
How true those words are. This writer was recently attacked by the shadow Welsh secretary, Owen Smith, for pointing out that he had confirmed, in his own words, that Labour would not speak out against the work capability assessment (that is responsible for three of the four deaths mentioned above) for fear of the right-wing press. This effectively means that his party is asking the sick and disabled to die for Labour’s election hopes.
Mr Smith threatened me with legal action after this blog put his words into plain English. He has since gone quiet, which is just as well. Not only has there been a national debate on the subject (of which Ms Toynbee’s article is just the latest part) but at least one reader has been able to confirm that my words were accurate, after a doorstep conversation with his own Labour candidate. Other readers are encouraged to do the same.
“On benefits, most voters are conflicted,” Ms Toynbee continues. “No one, least of all those working hard for very little, wants people cheating.” That is true. But then, 99.3 per cent of benefit claimants aren’t cheating at all. This government just treats them as if they are.
“Labour can’t win this internalised tussle by replicating it, but could earn credit by encouraging the nation’s better instincts,” writes Ms Toynbee.
The shame is that all the words coming from Labour suggest it will do the former, rather than the latter.
The late David Clapson [Image: change.org petition site].
MPs are set to hold an inquiry into benefit sanctions after 200,000 people signed a petition in the wake of an ex-soldier’s death.
More than 211,000 people signed a Change.org petition started by Gill Thompson calling for an inquiry into benefit sanctions after diabetic David Clapson, 59, was found dead in his home.
Gill’s three-month campaign called for an independent inquiry into benefit sanctions – which refers to occasions that money is withheld from claimants if they fail to meet the terms agreed.
The Work and Pensions cross-party select committee has now agreed and its inquiry into benefit sanctions is due to start early next year. It is expected to be completed shortly before the General Election in May.
David, from Stevenage – who worked for 29 years, had his £71.70 weekly allowance stopped and died three weeks later. When his body was found by a friend, his electricity card was out of credit, meaning the fridge where he kept the insulin he used to treat his diabetes was not working.
He died from diabetic ketoacidosis three weeks after his benefits were stopped, caused by not taking insulin. A coroner found that when David died there was no food in his stomach.
Gill, 57, from London, has welcomed the decision to hold an inquiry. She said: “I’m still getting my head around the announcement. It’s still so overwhelming. When I started the petition I didn’t know what would happen.
“It wasn’t just for David. Nothing can replace him but the one thing I thought I could do was to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else.
“I’m not normally a campaigner and David wasn’t someone who liked a fuss, but sometimes in life there are certain things you have to do – and starting this petition was one of them.
“I am so glad I did it now. I hope, through this investigation, lessons will be learnt. People turn to the state when they are in need – that is what the system is for – a safety net for hard working people like my brother when they need a bit of support.”
Debbie Abrahams, MP for East Oldham and Saddleworth, has been calling on the DWP select committee, of which she is a member, to hold an inquiry into “inappropriate use” of benefit sanctions since November last year.
She said: “Gill has shown great courage in the wake of her brother’s appalling death to take on this cruel government and its inhuman policy of targeting vulnerable people who are reliant on social security.
“The huge response to Gill’s Change.org petition with more than 200,000 signatures is proof that the British public will not stand by and do nothing when they see vulnerable people suffering.”
“The government has done everything it can to avoid having this inquiry. There is increasing evidence of the negative effects of social security sanctions on some of the most vulnerable in society, which shows that their so-called welfare reforms don’t work. This is a government that doesn’t give a damn about ordinary people.
“Latest figures show that there are now more people in working families who are living in poverty than in workless and retired families combined.”
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