Tag Archives: inquest

Coroners told to ignore lack of PPE in coronavirus-related inquests

One more time: PPE provided to UK medical staff is at the bottom right. Coroners are being told not to consider whether a national failure to provide proper equipment contributed to the deaths of medical staff.

Now the coroners’ courts are being told to hide the fatal results of failed Conservative policies to tackle the coronavirus, it seems.

Guidance handed down by Mark Lucraft QC, chief coroner for England and Wales, says “an inquest would not be a satisfactory means of deciding whether adequate general policies and arrangements were in place for provision of PPE to healthcare workers”.

He said that “if there were reason to suspect that some human failure contributed to the person being infected with the virus”, an inquest may be required.

The coroner “may need to consider whether any failures of precautions in a particular workplace caused the deceased to contract the virus and so contributed to death”.

But he added: “An inquest is not the right forum for addressing concerns about high-level government or public policy.”

Isn’t that an attempt to palm off responsibility for a lack of PPE onto “a particular workplace” rather than keeping it where it belongs – with the government that sent all our equipment to China and sold domestic stockpiles to a private, US-owned company?

Source: NHS staff coronavirus inquests told not to look at PPE shortages | Society | The Guardian

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Why are we learning about disabled Errol Graham TWO YEARS after the DWP stopped his benefits and he starved to death?

Someone did a good job of hushing up this abomination.

If John Pring hadn’t reported the inquest on Disability News Service, we might never have learned how the Department for Work and Pensions ignored its own safeguarding advice to deprive Errol Graham of his benefits.

Left with no income, Mr Graham starved to death.

He had been receiving incapacity benefit, and then ESA, for many years as a result of enduring mental distress that had led to him being sectioned.

The DWP stopped Mr Graham’s Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) entitlement – and backdated that decision to the previous month – after making two unsuccessful visits to his home to ask why he had not attended a face-to-face Work Capability Assessment (WCA) on August 31, 2017.

He had not been asked to fill in an ESA50 questionnaire, though. Why not?

The government department managed to stop an ESA payment that had been due to be credited to his bank account on October 17, the same day it made the second unsuccessful safeguarding visit.

Its own rules state that it should have made both safeguarding visits before stopping the benefits of a vulnerable claimant.

Not only that, but the DWP had needed – but failed – to seek further medical evidence from Mr Graham’s GP, in order to make an informed decision about him.

In fact, it seems this would not have made much difference as Mr Graham’s GP had not seen him since 2013, or recalled him for vital blood tests or issued prescriptions since 2015, despite medical conditions including significant, long-term mental distress and hypothyroidism.

Because he had lost his entitlement to ESA, Mr Graham’s housing benefit was also stopped.

When bailiffs knocked down his front door to evict him on June 20, 2018, they found a dead body that weighed just four and a half stone. The only food in the flat was a couple of out-of-date tins of fish.

Mr Graham was 57 years old.

On an ESA form years before, he had told the DWP he could not cope with “unexpected changes”, adding: “Upsets my life completely. Feel under threat and upset…”

He said: “Cannot deal with social situations. Keep myself to myself. Do not engage with strangers. Have no social life. Feel anxiety and panic in new situations.”

So without warning, the DWP flung him into exactly the kind of new – and harrowing – situation that he would be unable to handle.

Assistant coroner Dr Elizabeth Didcock said a consultant psychiatrist told the inquest “that Errol was vulnerable to life stressors” and that it was “likely that this loss of income, and housing, were the final and devastating stressors, that had a significant effect on his mental health”.

Exactly.

Who knows what torment Mr Graham underwent in the weeks and months after the DWP cut off his financial lifelines, unable to turn to anybody for help as his funds – and food – slowly dwindled to nothing?

The DNS report states that the DWP “refused to confirm that Errol Graham also had a PIP claim refused; refused to provide an update on the safeguarding review; refused to offer a justification for the department’s safeguarding failures; refused to comment on the similarities between his death and that of other disabled benefit claimants; refused to say which senior civil servants and ministers would take responsibility for his death; refused to say if DWP agreed with the senior civil servant who told the inquest the department had acted “appropriately”; refused to justify sending a highly-paid barrister to the inquest; and refused to explain how DWP was able to stop the ESA payment so quickly after the final safeguarding visit. He also refused to explain why DWP had not apologised to the family of Errol Graham”.

But the Assistant Coroner decided not to write a “Regulation 28” report demanding changes to DWP’s safeguarding procedures to “prevent future deaths” because the DWP claimed it was already completing a review of its safeguarding, which was supposed to finish last autumn.

Where is it?

Worse still is the cover-up; the only reason the story has come out is that DNS was contacted by Alison Turner, the partner of Mr Graham’s son, who questioned the DWP at the inquest and has fought for justice for him since the discovery of his death.

It was in the public interest for the facts of Mr Graham’s death to be known as they exposed the failure of the DWP to follow its own safeguarding rules, and also his GP’s failure to provide medical help.

As the Assistant Coroner stated, the “safety net that should surround vulnerable people like Errol in our society had holes within it”.

It seems clear that those holes have been punched in the net by our Conservative government, that has deliberately remoulded the DWP into a system designed to punish people for being sick, or disabled, for having poor-paying jobs or no job at all; and that has worked hard to break down the NHS, making it ripe for privatisation.

But nobody reported the inquest and hardly anybody ever heard of Errol Graham – until now.

He’s only the latest in a long line of DWP-related fatalities.

And with a Conservative government installed for at least another five years, how will any of them ever get justice?

Source: The death of Errol Graham: Man starved to death after DWP wrongly stopped his benefits – Disability News Service

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New evidence fuels demand for inquest uncovering DWP role in the death of Jodey Whiting

Jodey Whiting, 42, took her own life after her benefits were stopped.

Remember Jodey Whiting?

She’s the woman who took her own life after the Department for Work and Pensions ignored its own policies for safeguarding benefit claimants no fewer than five times while dealing with her case.

The DWP scorned calls for an independent inquiry into deaths related to its decisions, prompted by Ms Whiting’s death – even after tens of thousands of people signed a petition demanding it.

Now her mother, Joy Dove, has launched a demand for a new inquest, saying the interests of justice demand it after new evidence emerged.

This includes the result of an investigation into the handling of Ms Whiting’s benefits by the DWP and a report from an independent consultant psychiatrist who concluded that the DWP’s failings would probably have had a substantial effect on her mental state.

In her letter to the Attorney General, Ms Dove argued that the manner in which her daughter was treated by the DWP, and in particular the withdrawal of her ESA, caused or materially contributed to her death and, that had this not occurred, her daughter’s death might have been prevented.

Ms Whiting, of Stockton, died on 21 February 2017, aged 42. She was a vulnerable woman with multiple physical and mental health illnesses which left her house-bound, requiring 23 tablets per day and entirely reliant on welfare benefits.

In late 2016 the DWP began to reassess her entitlement to Employment Support Allowance (ESA).

She requested a home visit as she rarely left the house due to her health and she made clear that she had “suicidal thoughts a lot of the time and could not cope with work or looking for work”.

Despite this, the DWP decided that she should attend a work capability assessment. She failed to attend so the DWP stopped her fortnightly ESA payments.

With help from her family, Ms Whiting wrote to the DWP explaining the severity of her health conditions and asking for a reconsideration, but this did not happen until after her death.

She also received letters informing her that her housing benefit and council tax benefit would be stopped because they were linked to her ESA.

Just three days after her last ESA payment, Ms Whiting took her own life.

An inquest was held, lasting less than an hour, in which the coroner declined to consider the potential role of the DWP in the death. Ms Whiting’s family were unrepresented and were unaware that they may have been entitled to publicly-funded legal representation.

After the inquest a report by an Independent Case Examiner concluded that the DWP had made multiple significant errors in how it treated Ms Whiting. Some of the failings had not been known to her family, who were horrified to learn how many failings had occurred in the handling of her benefits.

This could be a hugely important case.

Who knows how many other people are now dead who might have lived if the DWP had handled their cases with an ounce of sensitivity?

We may soon find out – but only if the Attorney General grants permission for a new inquest to take place.

Source: Family Of Jodey Whiting Seek Fresh Inquest Into Her Death | Leigh Day

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High court bid for justice after coroner turns down call for Clapson inquest

161119-david-clapson

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.

Her announcement came as new Department for Work and Pensions figures showed a sharp rise in the number of sanctions imposed on claimants of the out-of-work disability benefit, employment and support allowance.

In May 2016, there were 1,199 decisions taken to impose a sanction on an ESA claimant, but in June that shot up to 1,749. In January, the figure was as low as 900.

The number of JSA sanctions also rose, although not as steeply, from 12,067 in May to 14,049 in June.

Source: Sanction death man’s sister turns to courts after coroner turns down inquest call

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Formal demand for further investigation into ‘unnatural’ death of former soldier after benefit sanction

The late David Clapson, who died after his benefit was cut [Image: change.org petition site].

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.

Source: Family of soldier David Clapson who died after benefit sanctions lodge formal demand for inquest – Mirror Online

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DWP blamed by second coroner for incapacity benefit claimant suicide

The late Julia Kelly

The late Julia Kelly

So you thought Mary Hassall was the only British coroner to have blamed a benefit claimant’s death on the DWP? Think again.

To This Writer’s shame, the case of Julia Kelly was reported in This Blog, earlier this year – but I did not recall that Northamptonshire County Coroner Anne Pember’s report had conferred responsibility for her death on the Department for Work and Pensions after the case of Michael O’Sullivan was reported last month.

Mr O’Sullivan committed suicide in late 2013. North London coroner Mary Hassall, at his inquest early the following year, recorded that his death occurred as a direct result of being declared “fit for work” in a DWP work capability assessment, made in response to his claim for Employment and Support Allowance.

Julia Kelly took her life in November 2014. At her inquest in March this year, according to the Northampton Chronicle, “Coroner Anne Pember, recording her verdict of suicide, said she also believed that the ‘upset caused by the potential withdrawal of her benefits had been the trigger for her to end her life’.”

Ms Kelly had been forced to give up work in 2010 due to pain caused by a car crash (which was not her fault) five years previously. In 2013, she was involved in a second crash and had to undergo a six-hour operation on her spine as a result.

Together with her father, David Kelly, she formed a charity – Away With Pain – to help fellow sufferers of chronic back pain.

But then the Department for Work and Pensions told her she had to repay £4,000 in Employment and Support Allowance payments, saying she had failed to declare capital funds.

It seems the government department was referring to money held by the charity, rather than funds owned by Ms Kelly herself.

Ms Kelly, who had fought for every penny of her benefit at three tribunal hearings, was bombarded with a series of repayment demands. According to her father, it was this relentless stream of brown-envelope letters that pushed her to suicide.

He told Channel 4 News about it. Take a look at the report:

A few months later, the DWP started stridently claiming that no causal link had been shown between claims for incapacity benefits and the suicide of claimants, in response to demands from almost 250,000 petitioners – and more than 90 MPs including the new leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn – to publish the number of claimants who have died on benefits.

We all know the DWP was lying, thanks to Ms Hassall’s report on Michael O’Sullivan.

The facts about Julia Kelly mean we must now question the magnitude of the lie.

We know the DWP examined the cases of around 60 people who committed suicide after their benefits were withdrawn or reduced – that fact was most recently mentioned in Prime Minister’s Questions, in the House of Commons on Wednesday (October 21) – but the Department has refused to publish its findings.

All Cameron would offer was that he would “look … at” the question asked about publication. He can look at it all day without doing anything about it, of course.

Meanwhile, serious questions are arising as we learn more about these deaths and the extent of the DWP cover-up.

How many people have died due to the reduction or withdrawal of incapacity benefits?

How many of these deaths happened long enough after their benefits were withdrawn that the DWP never bother to record them – on the grounds that it was none of the Department’s business (this is what happened with Mr O’Sullivan)?

How many more coroners’ verdicts have implicated the DWP in the deaths, but have been quietly swept under the carpet?

And – as the United Nations investigates possible grave and systematic violations of incapacity benefit claimants’ human rights – what can be done to secure the release of the facts?

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Vox Political on LBC radio to discuss DWP lies

LBC

Vox Political’s Mike Sivier (that’s me) will be appearing on LBC radio at around 1pm to talk about the revelation that a coroner ruled that a man died as a direct result of being involved in a work capability assessment organised by the Department for Work and Pensions.

Thanks to the Daily Mail, we now know that the deceased was 60-year-old Michael O’Sullivan, of Highgate, north London, who took his own life six months after being found fit for work. The Atos assessor never asked him about suicidal thoughts and the DWP decision maker never considered relevant evidence from his doctors.

The DWP said this was because its policy on further evidence was “regrettably not followed in this case” and that it would circulate a reminder. We have no evidence that this was done or that further deaths did not follow because of similar omissions – and any claims by the DWP must be treated as suspicious.

This is because the DWP, knowing that a causal link between the work capability assessment and the death of claimants had been proved by north London coroner Mary Hassall in January 2014, spent the whole summer denying any such link to campaigners and MPs who were demanding publication of up-to-date claimant death statistics.

Even after its statistics – poor as they are – were published, the DWP kept up the pretence. Clearly, we cannot trust a word that comes out of that organisation.

… and that’s what I’ll be saying at around 1pm today.

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The DWP has lied; ministers know ‘fit for work’ decisions lead to death

Too ill to work means too ill to live: Work capability assessors have neglected to carry out their duties properly, and this has led to the deaths of claimants.

Too ill to work means too ill to live: Work capability assessors have neglected to carry out their duties properly, and this has led to the death of at least one claimant.

Let’s get this straight: In an inquest into the death of a disabled man, a coroner ruled in early 2014 that his suicide was a direct result of being declared ‘fit for work’ in a work capability assessment.

Bearing this in mind…

What has the DWP been saying about there being “no causal link” between its administration of the benefit system and the deaths of claimants, again?

Time and time again, we have been told that there is no link between the deaths of any benefit claimants and their treatment by the DWP, even though that government department had at least one report proving the opposite. We can say “at least one report” because we have no evidence to show that coroners have not submitted many, many more.

We do have evidence that the Department for Work and Pensions – and with the Conservative Government as a whole – has been lying to us.

The DWP’s response to the concerns raised by North London coroner Mary Hassall was that its policy on dealing with cases such as that of ‘Mr A’, the deceased, “regrettably was not followed in this case”. And in how many others?

The Atos-employed work capability assessor, responsible for collecting evidence to determine whether Mr A should receive Employment and Support Allowance, had recorded that Mr A was “at no significant risk by working” and failed to ask him if he had suicidal thoughts. Perhaps this is for the best, as we know from experience that the next question is “Why haven’t you killed yourself?” – the query that many of us suspect has ‘nudged’ many towards suicide.

According to Disability News Service, “The Atos healthcare professional had failed to take into account the views of any of Mr A’s doctors during a 90-minute assessment, telling him the DWP decision-maker would look at that evidence instead.

“But the DWP decision-maker did not request any reports or letters from Mr A’s GP (who had assessed him as not being well enough to work), his psychiatrist (who had diagnosed him with recurrent depression and panic disorder with agoraphobia), or his clinical psychologist (who had assessed him as “very anxious and showing signs of clinical depression”). Instead, Mr A was found fit for work. Six months later, he killed himself.”

Six months later? So Mr A would not have appeared in any of the statistics released by the DWP in August, then.

You see how the government has tried to spin its way out of responsibility?

The DNS report continues: “The coroner said in her report that she believed that action should be taken ‘to prevent future deaths’ and that DWP had the power to take such action.

“In its response, DWP said there was a ‘clear policy that further medical evidence [should be requested] in cases where claimants report suicidal ideation in their claim forms which regrettably was not followed in this instance’. It said it planned to issue a reminder to staff about this guidance, but appeared to make no further suggestions for how to prevent further such deaths.”

We have no evidence that any such reminder was issued to staff or that any of them acted upon it if it was.

These are circumstances that should lead to a major prosecution for corporate manslaughter.

According to the Crown Prosecution Service, an organisation is guilty of corporate manslaughter if the way in which its activities are managed or organised causes a person’s death; and amounts to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed by the organisation to the deceased. An organisation is guilty of an offence if the way in which its activities are managed or organised by its senior management is a substantial element in the breach.

It seems clear that, not only has the coroner accused the DWP of such a breach; the Department has admitted it – and failed to take steps to stop it happening again.

Let’s pause for a moment and note that we would not have evidence that the DWP has been lying about the “causal link” between its behaviour and the deaths of benefit claimants without my now-infamous Freedom of Information request – submitted in May 2014, after the inquest into the death of Mr A.

The request called for the number of deaths of anybody who had been found ‘fit for work’ between the end of November 2011 and May 28, 2014. This would, of course, have included the death of Mr A. The DWP failed to include his death in its statistical release of August 27 this year (which the government claims is a response to my request). Only people whose claim ended within two weeks of their death were included in the figures. I have asked the Information Commissioner to enforce publication of the full number of deaths, in line with both my request and his decision notice of April 30 this year.

It is only when the full number of deaths is known that we may be able to start assessing the full, devastating effect of Iain Duncan Smith’s policy of hate towards people with long-term illnesses and disabilities.

For those of us who are working to defend the most vulnerable people in society, important ground has been gained.

But the hardest battle is yet to come.

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Harsh criticism for Miliband’s advisors – and about time too

The right man for the job? Despite what follows, Ed Miliband must take much of the responsibility for the Sun photoshoot cock-up. If he's going to slavishly do whatever his political advisors say then he is a follower, not a leader. He should be thinking very carefully about the right thing to do - not only for his future, but for the future of the nation.

The right man for the job? Despite what follows, Ed Miliband must take much of the responsibility for the Sun photoshoot cock-up. If he’s going to slavishly do whatever his political advisors say then he is a follower, not a leader. He should be thinking very carefully about the right thing to do – not only for his future, but for the future of the nation.

Ed Miliband has lost far too much political ground by making silly schoolboy mistakes, but it is right that he should not take all of the blame.

The Labour leader is surrounded by advisors who should be warning him away from having his photograph taken with a football-promoting copy of The Sun in the week that the Hillsborough inquests were taking place. Instead it seems they egged him on to do it.

That’s completely wrong-headed and suggests that there are people close to Miliband who are working against him. Blairites who want to discredit ‘Red Ed’, perhaps? It would explain why Labour is still coming out – and getting bogged down – with ‘Red Tory’ ideas when it should be pushing a new anti-austerity, anti-privatisation, pro-equality and pro-fairness position.

The party’s former deputy chairman, Tom Watson, wants to see better results or resignations – but he’s being far too charitable to people who are idiots at best, fifth columnists at worst.

“The people around Ed… they’re very powerful political people; they carry a lot of power in the Labour party,” Watson told Radio 5 Live (as reported in The Guardian). If that’s true, then they probably gained that power as part of neoliberal New Labour. Their ideas will be as out-of-date as those of the current Conservative-led Coalition.

Look what Watson said shortly after: “We had a leader of the Labour party who was publicly embarrassed on Thursday because whoever was in charge of press let him go through a process where we had councillors in Merseyside resigning. It was a schoolboy error from someone who doesn’t understand the Labour party.” And yet, by his own admission, these are some of the most powerful people in it!

But you didn’t have to be a powerful political advisor to know what the right decision should have been; a commenter on Facebook pointed it out. Miliband should have declined The Sun‘s invitation and arranged a photo shoot of his own, preferably with a local football team; “Labour supports British football from the grass roots upward.” That would have highlighted, also, the commercialisation (and corruption?) of the game at higher levels.

It’s what I would have suggested.

So here’s a thought: Let’s tell Ed to fire whoever told him a Sun photoshoot would be a good idea and hire me instead. Not only do I know what the score is (more than his current yes-men, for sure), I won’t cost as much, and it’s a job I can do from home – so my activities as a carer won’t be affected.

You think that’s a mistake? Surely not.

How much time do you think it takes to tell a man the difference between a good idea and a duff one?

All you need is the sense to know the difference…

… and the proper political motives.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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IDS off the hook with ICC – so evidence needed of Atos deaths

Brian McArdle. On the BBC’s Question Time last Thursday, Iain Duncan Smith flew into a rage when Owen Jones challenged him about what happened to Mr McArdle, “57 years old, paralysed down one side, blind in one eye; he couldn’t speak. He died one day after being found ‘fit for work’ by Atos.”

People whose family members have died while going through the DWP/Atos work capability assessment are being urged to contact a disability specialist – who has been seeking international legal action against the austerity-enforced injustice.

Vox Political reported back in September that Samuel Miller had contacted the International Criminal Court in The Hague, intending to file a complaint against Iain Duncan Smith, Chris Grayling and Maria Miller, the ministers at the Department for Work and Pensions, considered most responsible for “draconian welfare reforms and the resultant deaths of their society’s most vulnerable”.

Mr Miller got in touch over the weekend, but said that the result had been disappointing: “They stated that the International Criminal Court has a very limited jurisdiction. The Court may only address the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes as defined by Articles 6 to 8 of the Rome Statute.”

The Rome Statute is the document under which the ICC was established. Article 7, which covers crimes against humanity, states: “For the purpose of this Statute, “crime against humanity” means any of the following acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack:

“(k) Inhumane acts … intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health.”

I thought this – Article 7 (k) – was a perfect description of what the DWP and its ministers are trying to achieve, and Mr Miller agreed. But he said: “Clearly the ICC is striving to discourage the filing of austerity complaints.”

There is a way forward. He added: “On a welcome note, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights recently acknowledged that austerity measures may violate human rights — which certainly is a step in the right direction.”

He’s right. The chair of the UN committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Ariranga Govindasamy Pillay said on October 23 that, although member states face tough decisions when dealing with rising public deficits, austerity measures are potentially violations of their legal obligations to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

“All States Parties should avoid at all times taking decisions which lead to the denial or infringement of economic, social and cultural rights,” Pillay said, citing an open letter to States Parties from the committee earlier this year that clarified the committee’s position on austerity measures.

By ratifying the Covenant, member states like the UK have a legally binding obligation to progressively improve, without retrogression, universal access to goods and services such as healthcare, education, housing and social security and to ensure just and favourable conditions of work, without discrimination, in accordance with established international standards. These rights must be achieved by using the maximum of available resources.

Pillay pointed out that austerity measures are also a disincentive to economic growth and thereby hamper progressive realization of economic and social rights.

The committee had pointed out that social insecurity and political instability, as seen in parts of Europe today, were also potential effects of the denial or infringement of economic, social and cultural rights.

The poor, women, children, persons with disabilities, older persons, people with HIV/AIDS, indigenous peoples, ethnic minorities, migrants and refugees were particularly at risk, the committee had noted.

Having identified the possibility, we come to the burden of proof. Mr Miller said: “My best hope lies in procuring coroner’s reports where the cause of death is found to be destitution and/or suicide.”

Inevitably, there is a problem. The UK Coronial system does not involve the collating of such information, nor does it look for national trends. The role of the Coroner is case specific, so wider information is not available. This is because the system of inquests into deaths was never intended to investigate whether those deaths were being caused by insane decisions of the government itself.

The law in relation to death certification may be amended in 2014 to provide for Medical Examiners whose role will be to examine such matters – but that is two years from now, and the DWP/Atos system could pile up another 7,600 bodies in that time (using the generally-accepted average of 73 deaths per week).

Mr Miller has written to the DWP, seeking a change of coroners’ duties to allow proper and robust reporting of trends such as stress-related deaths, suicides and/or destitution deaths of welfare recipients and recipients who perished shortly after being stripped of their benefits can be reported to both the DWP and the Ministry of Justice.

But I think we all know there is little chance of success there. This government is hardly going to hand over the tools by which its own ministers might end up in an international court. They’re insane, but they’re not stupid!

So people are going to have to do it themselves. We know about high-profile cases in which deaths have been blamed on Atos. Information about the others needs to be available now.

This is why I want to appeal for anyone who has lost a loved one because of the DWP/Atos work capability assessment system to get in touch with Mr Miller. He needs to know the verdict that was reached at the inquests into their deaths.

His email address is [email protected]

I would strongly urge that anyone writing to Mr Miller keeps their correspondence to the point. It is to be hoped that he will receive a strong response, but this entails a large amount of work. It is therefore important to make that work as easy as possible, perhaps by putting the deceased’s name, address and the verdict at the top of your email.