A man suffering from anxiety, stress and panic attacks, but who has still been deemed fit for work by our prejudiced DWP assessment system, tells a mental health practitioner “What’s the point”?
He hands his car keys and bank details to his only acquaintance, saying he won’t need them any longer.
Shortly afterwards, he is found dead on a beach, showing signs of drowning and hypothermia.
And it isn’t enough to suggest that the DWP drove this man to suicide?
This seems like more evidence that the Coroner Service is being told to cover up for the government.
Coroner Crispin Oliver may have satisfied himself that his verdict was within the letter of the law – but was he abiding by its spirit?
A man who had been suffering with mental health problems for many years has been found dead on a beach in England, after being found ‘fit for work’ by the Department for Work and Pensions and told his sickness benefits were being removed.
David Metcalf, 54, was found dead on the beach near Horden, County Durham, on the 3rd January, just four days after being examined by a mental health practitioner at his home in Hartlepool.
In his report, the mental health practitioner Leighann Fishpool said: “David was signed off sick for nine years due to anxiety, stress and panic attacks.
“He has recently been deemed fit for work and told he would need to go to the JobCentre to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance.
“He said he was frustrated and upset and thought ‘What’s the point?’”
Concerns were raised after Mr Metcalf handed his car keys and bank documents to a garage owner, who is believed to have been his only acquaintance, saying he would no longer need them.
Mr Metcalf was found still dressed in a jumper, coat and gloves, but was not wearing any socks or underwear. However, Detective Sgt Gary Davison told the hearing that he didn’t think this was particularly unusual.
The inquest heard that a post-mortem showed signs of drowning and hypothermia.
The Hartlepool Mail reports that Mr Metcalf had denied any intention to harm himself, and the coroner said it was unclear as to whether he had entered the sea accidentally or deliberately.
Without clear evidence that Mr Metcalf had intended to commit suicide when entering the sea, Coroner Mr Oliver recorded an ‘open verdict’.
“I simply cannot come to the conclusion beyond reasonable doubt that he intended to kill himself and, therefore, the suicide conclusion is not available,” he said.
Stephanie Bottrill has become a symbol of Coalition Government failure. Wrongly charged Bedroom Tax (a Coalition cost-cutting measure) and unable to pay for food and heating, she committed suicide – and the government still failed to reach its fiscal targets.
Professor Simon Wren-Lewis is a terrific source of wisdom when it comes to macroeconomics, but sometimes it seems he loses track of why we mess around with money.
His latest Mainly Macro blog article begins with a claim that it is odd to criticise the policy of fiscal austerity, and at the same time complain that the government has failed to meet its own 2010 fiscal target. “It would be more logical to praise the government for abandoning its 2010 target,” he writes. “But politicians cannot resist criticising a missed target.”
What about the human cost, Professor?
People with mental illnesses have been forced off Employment and Support Allowance and onto Jobseekers’ Allowance, then sanctioned off of that benefit to meet government-imposed targets. We know of one such person who froze to death in the street – and the government still missed its 2010 fiscal target.
Another person – also with mental health problems – committed suicide after being sanctioned and was found, hanged, at the top of his stairs – and the government still missed its 2010 fiscal target.
What about the grandmother who committed suicide by walking in front of a lorry on the motorway, because she couldn’t afford the cost of living after the Bedroom Tax had been introduced? We later discovered that the charge had been wrongly imposed on her. The government had kept the money but still missed its 2010 fiscal target!
Perhaps Professor Wren-Lewis has made a good point by accident.
He is right to suggest that politicians are wrong to criticise the government for failing to meet its fiscal target – but only because they are doing so for the wrong reasons.
Maybe we should remind our MPs that, every time they attack the Coalition Government’s fiscal failures, they need to mention the many deaths that have been caused – deaths which Conservative ministers at the Treasury and the Department for Work and Pensions seem to regard as collateral damage or an occupational hazard.
Perhaps we should invite Professor Wren-Lewis to ensure he mentions these deaths in his own communications with the government – if and when he ever does so.
Please also share this with any politicians you believe would benefit from the information.
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?
Ashton-Under-Lyne Job Centre Plus: Yes, an image of David Cameron looking like a Nazi might have been more striking but the fact is that the evil work carried out in modern Britain takes place behind the most inconspicuous facades – like this.
I was stopped by a homeless chap who wanted to congratulate us on our hard work. He said that he hated this Job Centre. His friend who lived on the streets with him had been sanctioned after being taken off the sickness benefits that he was on and was put on Job seekers Allowance. He had severe mental health and addiction problems. He was sanctioned, and without warm clothes and very little food he fell asleep on the streets and never woke up. He died of hypothermia. People had passed him and thought that he was asleep. He didn’t stand a chance. And what do the Job Centre staff say? “We are only following orders.” Most don’t feel any guilt or remorse. And we know that this government doesn’t either.
Andy Burnham, Shadow Health Secretary: He’d rather listen to real doctors than spin doctors.
The title of this article should seem brutally ironic, considering that the Coalition government famously ‘paused’ the passage of the hugely controversial Health and Social Care Act through Parliament in order to perform a ‘listening exercise’ and get the views of the public.
… Then again, maybe not – as the Tories (with the Liberal Democrats trailing behind like puppies) went on to do exactly what they originally wanted, anyway.
Have a look at the motion that went before the House of Commons today:
“That this House is concerned about recent pressure in Accident and Emergency departments and the increase in the number of people attending hospital A&Es since 2009-10; notes a recent report by the Care Quality Commission which found that more than half a million people aged 65 and over were admitted as an emergency to hospital with potentially avoidable conditions in the last year; believes that better integration to improve care in the home or community can relieve pressure on A&E; notes comments made by the Chief Executive of NHS England in oral evidence to the Health Select Committee on 5 November 2013, that the NHS is getting bogged down in a morass of competition law, that this is causing significant cost and that to make integration happen there may need to be legislative change; is further concerned that the competition aspects of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 are causing increased costs in the NHS at a time when there is a shortage of A&E doctors; and calls on the Government to reverse its changes to NHS competition policy that are holding back the integration needed to help solve the A&E crisis and diverting resources which should be better spent on improving patient care.”
Now have a look at the amendment that was passed:
“That this House notes the strong performance of NHS accident and emergency departments this winter; further notes that the average waiting time to be seen in A&E has more than halved since 2010; commends the hard work of NHS staff who are seeing more people and carrying out more operations every year since May 2010; notes that this has been supported by the Government’s decision to protect the NHS budget and to shift resources to frontline patient care, delivering 12,000 more clinical staff and 23,000 fewer administrators; welcomes changes to the GP contract which restore the personal link between doctors and their most vulnerable patients; welcomes the announcement of the Better Care Fund which designates £3.8 billion to join up health and care provision and the Integration Pioneers to provide better care closer to home; believes that clinicians are in the best position to make judgements about the most appropriate care for their patients; notes that rules on tendering are no different to the rules that applied to primary care trusts; and, a year on from the publication of the Francis Report, notes that the NHS is placing an increased emphasis on compassionate care, integration, transparency, safe staffing and patient safety.”
Big difference, isn’t it?
From the wording that won the vote, you would think there was nothing wrong with the health service at all – and you would be totally mistaken.
But this indicates the sort of cuckooland where the Coalition government wants you to live; Jeremy Hunt knows what the problems are – he just won’t acknowledge them. And he doesn’t have to – the media are run by right-wing Tory adherents.
So here, for the benefit of those of you who had work to do and missed the debate, are a few of the salient points.
Principal among them is the fact that ward beds are being ‘blocked’ – in other words, their current occupants are unable to move out, so new patients cannot move in. This is because the current occupants are frail elderly people with no support in place for them to live outside hospital. With no space on wards, accident and emergency departments have nowhere to put their new admissions, meaning they cannot free up their own beds.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt had nothing to say about this.
Andy Burnham, who opened proceedings, pointed out the huge increase in admissions to hospital accident and emergency departments – from a rise of 16,000 between 2007 and 2010 to “a staggering” 633,000 in the first three years of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition government.
Why the rapid rise? “There has been a rise in people arriving at A and E who have a range of problems linked to their living circumstances, from people who have severe dental pain because they cannot afford to see the dentist, to people who are suffering a breakdown or who are in crisis, to people who cannot afford to keep warm and are suffering a range of cold-related conditions.”
He said almost a million people have waited more than four hours for treatment in the last year, compared with 350,000 in his year as Health Secretary; the statement in the government amendment that waiting times have halved only relates to the time until an initial assessment – not total waiting time. Hospital A and Es have missed the government’s targets in 44 of the last 52 weeks.
Illnesses including hypothermia are on the rise, and the old Victorian ailments of rickets and scurvy are back, due to increased malnutrition.
Hospitals are filling up with the frail elderly, who should never have ended up there or who cannot get the support needed to go home because of a £1.8 billion cut in adult social services and support. This, Mr Burnham said, was “the single most important underlying cause of the A and E crisis”; ward admissions cannot be made because the beds are full. The number of emergency admissions of pensioners has topped 500,000 for the first time.
Ambulances have been held in queues outside A and E, unable to hand over patients to staff because it is full. That has left large swathes of the country — particularly in rural areas — without adequate ambulance cover.
The government is downgrading A and E units across the country into GP-run clinics, while pretending that they are still to be used for accidents and emergencies – in the middle of the A and E crisis.
People in England are reducing the number of drugs they are taking because they cannot afford to buy them. Families are choosing between eating, heating or other essentials, like prescriptions.
Competition rules have been stifling care, Mr Burnham said: “The chief executive of a large NHS trust near here says that he tried to create a partnership with GP practices and social care, but was told by his lawyers that he could not because it was anti-competitive.”
He added: “Two CCGs in Blackpool have been referred to Monitor for failing to send enough patients to a private hospital. The CCG says that there is a good reason for that: patients can be treated better in the community, avoiding costly unnecessary hospital visits. That is not good enough for the new NHS, however, so the CCG has had to hire an administrator to collect thousands of documents, tracking every referral from GPs and spending valuable resources that could have been spent on the front line.”
And the health trust in Bournemouth wanted to merge with neighbouring Poole trust, but competition rules stopped the merger taking place.
Mr Burnham demanded to know: “Since when have we allowed competition lawyers to call the shots instead of clinicians? The Government said that they were going to put GPs in charge. Instead, they have put the market in charge of these decisions and that is completely unjustifiable. The chief executive of Poole hospital said that it cost it more than £6 million in lawyers and paperwork and that without the merger the trust will now have an £8 million deficit.
“The chief executive of NHS England told the Health Committee about the market madness that we now have in the NHS: ‘I think we’ve got a problem, we may need legislative change… What is happening at the moment… we are getting bogged down in a morass of competition law… causing significant cost and frustration for people in the service in making change happen. If that is the case, to make integration happen we will need to change it’ – that is, the law. That is from the chief executive of NHS England.”
The response from current Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt needs to be examined carefully.
He said more than 96 per cent of patients were seen within four hours – but this conforms with Mr Burnham’s remark; they were seen, but not treated.
He tried to rubbish Mr Burnham’s remarks about scurvy by saying there had been only 26 admissions relating to scurvy since 2011 – but this misses the point. How many were there before 2011? This was an illness that had been eradicated in the UK – but is now returning due to Coalition policies that have forced people into malnutrition.
He dodged the issue of competition rules strangling the NHS, by saying that these rules were in place before the Health and Social Care Act was passed. In that case, asked Mr Burnham, “Why did the government legislate?” No answer.
As stated at the top of this article. he did not answer the question of the frail elderly blocking hospital beds at all.
The vote was won by the government because it has the majority of MPs and can therefore have its own way in any division, unless the vote is free (unwhipped) or a major rebellion takes place among its own members.
But anyone considering the difference between the Labour Party’s motion and the government’s amendment can see that there is a serious problem of perception going on here.
Or, as Andy Burnham put it: “This Secretary of State … seems to spend more time paying attention to spin doctors than he does to real doctors.”
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Today, Vox Political hands over to Geoff Reynolds, a commenter who submitted this in response to the government’s announcement that it is putting a 5p charge on plastic bags in order to discourage their use.
Here in Wales, the Welsh Government levied a charge on plastic bags a long time ago; clearly the Tories and the Lib Dems have realised that this was successful and their scheme is a copycat strategy – but you probably won’t see them admitting it.
Here’s Geoff, who starts his comment with his habitual shout:
‘WHILST THE DEATHS OF THOSE WHO HAVE SUCCUMBED TO THE FALLOUT CAUSED BY THE TRULY EVIL CRIMES OF WELFARE REFORMS SPIRAL HOPELESSLY OUT OF CONTROL, THIS IS THE ANSWER FROM OUR GOVERNMENT:
‘“PLASTIC BAGS ARE TO COST 5 PENCE.”
‘WHAT F**KING WORLD DO THESE IMBECILES BELONG ON? IT CERTAINLY ISN’T THE ONE WHERE I LIVE!
‘PENSIONERS ARE DYING OF HYPOTHERMIA, PEOPLE ARE HAVING THEIR HOMES TAKEN, DISABLED ARE BEING STARVED TO DEATH AND MORE CHILDREN ARE BEING BORN INTO POVERTY THAN AT ANY TIME SINCE THE LAST WAR.
‘The only things that are booming are food banks, yet these gormless b*st*rds, who got more for attending a Parliament call-back for Thatcher’s death than I get to live on for a full year, have the impudence to place “a shilling tariff on plastic bags”, at the top of the agenda.
‘They chose to ridicule a report by a UNITED NATIONS inspector on the real plight of our nation, while they pass legislation on a bag!
‘The leaking of the bag tariff has taken the thunder from the Lib Dems’ conference… It has been revealed!
‘WAKE UP YOU DELUDED T*SSBAGS!
‘THERE MUST BE MORE BRAIN CELLS IN A DISCARDED SHOWER CAP THAN THE WHOLE OF OUR REPRESENTATIVES IN WESTMINSTER!
‘WORDS FAIL ME. WE MIGHT AS WELL HAVE A GOLDFISH ON A LEAD.’
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