“This vindictive government of millionaires intends to make it impossible for the poorest and most vulnerable in society to seek legal redress against cruel and unwarranted decisions that will withdraw from them the money they use to keep themselves a hairs-breadth away from destitution.
“It is a decision to attack the poor for the fun of it.”
I added: “We all thought the Tories would be left heartbroken after the Hunting Act took away their favourite extracurricular pastime. It seems they have found another blood sport to replace it.”
How right I was.
The extent to which savage government cuts have deprived disabled people of legal aid in disputes over their benefit payments is revealed today by new official figures that show a 99% decline since 2011.
The total number of disabled people granted legal aid in welfare cases has plummeted from 29,801 in 2011-12 to just 308 in 2016-17, cutting some of the most vulnerable people in society adrift without expert advice in often highly complex and distressing cases.
MPs and charities representing disabled people reacted furiously to the figures, released in a parliamentary answer, saying they bore out their worst fears at the time ministers announced the cuts several years ago.
They called on the government to speed up an ongoing review of the legal aid system and to end a Whitehall culture that, they say, too often views disabled people as easy targets for savings.
Labour has secured a vote to force the Government to assess the impact of social security changes and fiscal measures on disadvantaged groups.
The Government failed to meet Labour’s demand for the Budget to be audited on the basis of gender, race, age, disability, class and region. Other parties have now joined Labour calls for transparency, with 127 MPs from Labour, the Lib Dems, SNP and the Greens, signing Dawn Butler’s letter to Justine Greening calling for all Government policy to be assessed for their impact on disadvantaged groups.
Although the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) places a legal responsibility on public bodies, including the Treasury, to conduct equality assessments, the Treasury has failed to publish adequate equalities audits of its fiscal measures.
This comes as analysis shows that 86 per cent of tax and social security changes continue to fall on women and women only received two thirds of the spending men received in this budget.
Dawn Butler MP, Labour’s Shadow Women and Equalities Minister, said: “The Tories’ failed austerity project has hit the most vulnerable groups in our society the hardest, forcing women, ethnic minority communities and disabled people to pay the highest price.
“The Finance Bill represents more of the same for groups with protected characteristics who have borne the brunt of Conservative economic failure for too long. We need a detailed assessment to reveal the full damage of Tory austerity.
“The next Labour government will ensure that we publish comprehensive equality impact assessments to enable us to truly build an economy that works for the many, not the few.”
Jacob Rees-Mogg and his nanny: The parents should take the blame.
Remember Tory darling Jacob Rees-Mogg’s appearance on Good Morning Britain, when he tried to justify his opposition to gay marriage and abortion – even in cases where pregnancy has occurred after rape – by referring to his Catholic Christian values?
Here’s the clip again:
Well, Iain Rowan of Sunderland had the perfect answer.
Writing in a newspaper (the name of which I don’t know because it isn’t mentioned in the following tweet, he stated:
For clarity, that’s: “Rees-Mogg justifies his opposition to gay marriage and abortion even in cases of rape on the basis of his Christian beliefs (Report, 7 September). So where is his opposition to welfare cuts on the grounds that Jesus went out of his way to demonstrate his compassion for the poor and the lame? When Jesus says ‘blessed are the peacemakers’, how does that fit with Rees-Mogg’s consistently voting for military intervention? Where are his statements on executive pay, reminding other MPs that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven? I thought being a committed Christian meant following the teachings of Jesus, rather than standing at the pick-and-mix counter in a sweetshop, only choosing the fizzy snakes.”
Strong words – and accurate.
And you know what?
If you take them from “Where is his opposition to welfare cuts”, they could be used to apply just as easily to that other well-known Tory “Christian” – Theresa May.
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The UK government is failing to uphold disabled people’s rights across a range of areas from education, work and housing to health, transport and social security, a UN inquiry has found.
The UN committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities examined the government’s progress in fulfilling its commitments to the UN convention on disabled people’s rights, to which the UK has been a signatory since 2007.
Its report concludes that the UK has not done enough to ensure the convention – which enshrines the rights of disabled people to live independently, to work and to enjoy social protection without discrimination – is reflected in UK law and policy.
It is scathing of the UK government’s inconsistent and patchy approach to protecting disability rights and its failure to audit the impact of its austerity policies on disabled people.
It says ministers have failed to show that measures will be in place to protect disability rights when the UK leaves the European Union.
Areas of concern highlighted by the report, which contains more than 60 recommendations for the UK government, include:
The rising numbers of disabled children educated in segregated “special schools” in the UK. The report calls for legislation to ensure mainstream schools provide “real inclusion” for disabled children.
High levels of poverty for disabled people and their families and reduced standards of living as result of multiple welfare reforms and benefit cuts. It calls for a review of benefit sanctions, which it says have a detrimental effect on recipients.
The failure of the UK government to recognise the rights of disabled people to live independently in the community. It calls on ministers to provide sufficient resources to support disabled people to live at home.
In November the same UN committee issued a scathing report on austerity policies pursued by the UK government in welfare and social care, which it described as “systematic violations” of the rights of people with disabilities. The government dismissed that report as patronising and offensive.
Debbie Abrahams, Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, responded to the committee’s observations as follows:
“The UN Committee, in making such a high number of recommendations to a nation state, has found that this Tory government is still failing sick and disabled people. Their damning report highlights what many disabled people already know to be true, that they are being forced to bear the brunt of failed Tory austerity policies. The Committee also expressed concerns about future rights for disabled people after Brexit.
“This confirms what Labour has been saying all along, that the lack of progress on all Convention articles, including cruel changes to social security and the punitive sanctions regime, are causing real misery for sick and disabled people.
“Labour will transform our social security system in partnership with disabled people to ensure that, like our NHS, it is there for us all in our time of need. The next Labour Government will incorporate the UN CRPD fully into UK law and immediately reverse the PIP regulations, as called for by the UN.”
What’s the betting the Tories dismiss this report as “patronising and offensive” too?
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Labour’s Anna Turley MP, standing up for victims of Conservative ‘welfare’ policy in exactly the way some people want you to think Labour doesn’t.
Some readers of This Blog may be unfortunate enough to have witnessed a conversation with a person calling him- or herself ‘Ghost Whistler’ in the comment column of the recent article on Momentum, in which this person has resorted to accusing the Labour Party of complacency in the deaths of benefit claimants. What a despicable distortion.
“Where are the Labour politicians when kids are taking their own lives due to benefit sanctions and DWP bullying?” That’s what this person asked, in a clear reference to the case of David Brown that This Blog covered yesterday (December 7). The implication is, of course, that Labour was complicit in the death.
Clearly this person had failed to do any research at all, as that particular comment was made more than four hours after Labour MP Anna Turley directly challenged the government over that very case, during Prime Minister’s Questions.
She told Leader of the House David Lidington, standing in for Theresa May while she’s off on a junket to sell weapons to Middle East countries: “I know that the whole House will join me in sending heartfelt sympathies and condolences to the family of David Brown, from Eston, who, aged just 18, took his own life.
“The inquest into his death has heard that he did so on the day he was due to sign on at the Job Centre, after saying that he felt ‘belittled’ by staff despite actively looking for work and seeking an apprenticeship. Shortly before taking his own life, he told his mum: ‘The way the Job Centre treat people, it is no surprise people commit suicide.’
“Will the Leader of the House undertake to review that individual case? Will he also undertake to take stock of six years of brutal welfare reform, and look into the way the Department for Work and Pensions treats its most vulnerable constituents, particularly young people?”
If anybody wants to find complacency about this death, they need look no further than Mr Lidington’s reply. After expressing what he described as “unreserved sympathy” for Mr Brown’s family, the Leader of the House contradicted himself thus: “Clearly, human beings in any organisation sometimes make decisions that get things wrong, and I will ask the Department for Work and Pensions to have a look at the particular case that the hon. Lady has described.
“However, I have to say to her that I think the principle remains right that while staff should always behave with courtesy towards people seeking to claim benefits, it is also right for us to expect people who are receiving benefits to be subject to the kind of disciplines that apply to people in work even if they are on low pay. There is a principle of fairness here, which is what lies behind the approach that the DWP takes.”
What’s fair about putting an impressionable young man into the clutches of a woman who clearly had not respect for him at all and from whom he could not demand proper treatment for fear of being removed from the interview by the guards that are now routinely posted at these facilities, his benefit sanctioned on the grounds that his behaviour fell short of the mark?
Who says it is right that jobseekers must be placed under the same pressures as people who are in work? They are not in work. They are seeking work. The two conditions are not that same and it is wrong to pretend that they are.
What will be gained from asking for the DWP to examine the David Brown case individually? This is not an isolated episode. DWP ‘advisers’ are constantly attacking claimants.
Today I read of a young man with severe disabilities that mean he has the mentality of a small child, being called in for a highly-distressing and pointless work capability assessment by the DWP.
The Department later apologised, saying he would not have been invited to an interview if the Job Centre had known the full extent of his condition – a condition for which the same department had been paying benefits for his entire life.
The problem is system-wide. Singling out a single case won’t stop the abuses from happening – unless the DWP intends to give, to the woman who forced David Brown towards suicide, a bonus? That seems far more likely.
The DWP’s response to Mr Brown’s death was an insult to him and everybody else who has died as a result of Conservative ‘welfare’ policy – and, make no mistake, there have been thousands upon thousands; far more than those covered by official statistics, even though they now run into the thousands.
A spokesman said: “Our thoughts are with Mr Brown’s family at this difficult time. Suicide is a very complex issue and there is no evidence of a link between Mr Brown’s suicide and his interaction with Jobcentre Plus.”
That is exactly the same line the DWP always trots out when somebody on benefits commits suicide – in defiance of the facts.
I read that comment on the Channel 4 News Facebook page and was so incensed I penned the following in response: “This is a person who made it clear he was being treated like dirt by a DWP staff member – and actually said, ‘The way the Job Centre treats people, it’s no surprise that people commit suicide’. Then on the day he was due to visit the Job Centre again, he was found dead.
“And the DWP wants us to believe there is no link?
“I’d like to know who made that comment and ask them just what somebody would have to do to get them to accept that there is a link.
“Their comment is an insult – not just to David Brown and his family, but to everybody else who has lost a friend or loved one because of the Conservative Party and its homicidal attitude, and to the public in general who they think they can patronise in this manner.”
All of the above was triggered by a Labour MP’s concern over the death of young man due to his treatment by the benefit system.
But that doesn’t matter because ‘Ghost Whistler’ wants to blame the Labour Party for it.
These deaths aren’t going to stop any time soon – not because Labour isn’t opposing them but because people like ‘Ghost Whistler’ are blaming Labour rather than putting responsibility where it is due, on the Conservatives. ‘Ghost Whistler’ is contributing to the problem, along with anybody else who would rather accuse the wrong people to make some obscure political gesture. This person is such a coward, they won’t even support their words with their own name.
So I’ll tell you what, ‘Ghost Whistler’ – do us all a favour. Take your ill-informed and offensive opinions, take yourself, and take all the other blinkered bigots like you, and toddle off back to whatever slimy hole you call home.
Don’t come out again. Don’t try to infect anybody else with your ignorance. Don’t insult the memory of the dead.
The numbers aren’t huge at the moment, but they are significant – between 2010 and 2014, malnutrition in Salford rose from 43 cases to 85.
The longer we have a Conservative government, the worse it is going to get.
This Blog predicted the problem all the way back in December 2012, when I wrote: “In the UK, there are currently 13 million people living below the poverty line [including] working people, whose income does not cover their costs; the unemployed, who are finding they do not have enough money to buy food due to the vicious and unwarranted benefit cuts thrust upon them… and of course the homeless, a sector of society that is due to grow exponentially, again due to the many cuts inflicted by the bloodthirsty Conservatives.
“As a consequence of the rise in poverty, overseen and orchestrated by Mr Cameron and his lieutenant Iain Duncan Smith in the Department for Work and Pensions, the classic poverty-related diseases of rickets and tuberculosis are on the increase. In 2012, the Conservatives have achieved their aim to revive the Dickensian Christmas.”
Almost a year later, the UK’s chief medical officer announced the formal return of rickets. One may presume that the disease, while present, did not exist in great enough numbers prior to this but, thanks to the policies of David Cameron, Theresa May and the Tories, that had changed.
This time, I wrote: “Can there be any doubt that this rise in cases has been brought about, not just by children sitting at home playing video games rather than going out in the sunlight, as some would have us believe, but because increasing numbers of children are having to make do with increasingly poor food, as Cameron’s policies hammer down on wages and benefits and force working class people and the unemployed to buy cheaper groceries with lower nutritional value?
“The Tory wage-crushing policy has been ignorant in the extreme… as it has created an extra burden on the NHS. Preventative measures ‘could save the economy billions’.”
More than three decades of neoliberal political rule had had a devastating effect on the nation’s children, I wrote. While our mortality rate for 0-14 year olds was among the best in Europe during the 1980s, it was now among the worst, with five more children dying every day than in the best-performing country, Sweden.
The highest death rates were in deprived areas – in the northwest, northern cities and some of London’s poorer boroughs, with 21.1 deaths per 100,000 people under 17.
I also wrote that the then-government seemed hell-bent on ensuring that predictions of a rise in tuberculosis would come true as well, with its plan to tackle the phantom problem of “health tourism” (see how long that little nonsense has been floating around?) deterring temporary migrants from seeking treatment when they first fell ill.
By October last year, the list of ‘Victorian’ diseases re-surfacing in the UK had increased to include gout, TB, measles, scurvy, rickets and whooping cough.
Social security researcher and commenter – and stalwart friend of This Blog – Samuel Miller called on local authorities to investigate the return of these diseases.
He told us: “There is growing evidence that the draconian welfare reforms are irreparably damaging the mental and physical health of benefit claimants. Health figures recently revealed a 50% increase in the number of people admitted to hospital with malnutrition over the past four years, and a return of Victorian diseases linked to poverty such as gout, TB, measles, scurvy, rickets, and whooping cough are a barometer of failure and neglect,” – and referred to a list of articles which may be found here.
And now Salford council has answered the request, telling us what we all knew – and what we all feared.
Back in 2014, I wrote something that, while accurate then, seems even more true now, so I make no apology for repeating it here:
In the Bible, Jesus is quoted as saying, “Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not” – meaning he did not want his disciples to stop youngsters from hearing his teachings.
That saying may now be re-worked to fit the philosophy of Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt to read: “Suffer, little children – for you have a Conservative government.”
The number of malnutrition cases in Salford has doubled – with many of the victims children.
Victorian illnesses such as rickets and beriberi – thought to be long eradicated – are on the rise due to food poverty according to a shocking new report.
The number of people being admitted to hospital with the condition doubled over a four year period.
Although health conditions are often a primary cause, Salford council leaders believes that poverty is also to blame.
“I’ll squeeze them ’til the pips squeak!” Alternatively, Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green may be saying something else about benefit claimants [Image: Ben Birchall/PA].
Here’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
The concept seems sound – revive the contributory principle for benefits so that people who put more into the system are able to take more out.
But any suggestion that it will benefit the poorest is a lie: Poor people don’t have extra money to contribute to the benefit system.
This seems like a front for further dismantling of benefits. A contributory scheme such as is suggested here could make way for a private insurance scheme very easily.
Does the public support that? Are we willing to pay regularly into insurance schemes that deplete our meagre savings and probably won’t pay out when we need the cash (look at the example of Unum in the United States)?
Sure, those who have worked longer deserve more support, but we already have a good, working principle on which our benefits are based.
It’s this: From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs.
Ah, but you won’t see any Torygraph columnist repeating that, will you?
It was coined by Karl Marx.
There is now an opportunity for the Conservatives to build a popular and effective welfare system that adequately protects what Theresa May has called “ordinary working-class families” who are “just managing”.
There is a growing number of policymakers, inside and outside of Government, who believe the next stage of welfare reform should be to offer more “contributory benefits”.
The public are on side: an overwhelming majority believe that it is fair that those who have worked longer – who have put more into the system – deserve more support in testing times.
The new Government should introduce a Contribution Supplement to Universal Credit and the base rate of Statutory Maternity Pay, rewarding higher amounts to claimants with longer work histories.
The Government should also introduce tax-free, contributory top-up accounts for those on low incomes. Those who decide to use them would have some of their savings matched by government, and would be able to draw down from their account in challenging financial circumstances to top up existing welfare support from government.
If you’re thinking that fibromyalgia is an illness rather than a disability, remember that Damian Green sees no difference. This person doesn’t look ill, so he would want to make her – and any disabled person who doesn’t look disabled – go looking for a job. And he doesn’t look stupid, does he?
Silly question, really – he’s talking nonsense, as the Conservative Party has been since it came back into office in 2010.
Just look at his comments in the Guardian article quoted below.
He claims the UN’s report on “systematic violations of the rights of people with disabilities” presents an “outdated” view of disability in the UK – but fails to identify in what way it is outdated. It seems more or less up-to-date to This Writer, and I know my stuff when it comes to disability and long-term sickness.
It seems to me that he is trying to suggest that the UN’s concentration on the rights of people with disabilities is outdated in comparison with his government’s view, which is based on the biopsychosocial model of disability.
In that case, it is the Tory government’s view that is outdated, as the biopsychosocial model has long been discredited.
Its basis is the belief that many illnesses and disabilities have no physical reality and are instead figments of a person’s imagination. This means they may be told there is nothing wrong with them and sent back to work – which is why Tory policy is about sending the sick and disabled back to work.
The model was developed by the criminal Unum insurance corporation in the US, as a means to avoid paying out when people’s health insurance policies matured. This has been explored previously by Vox Political.
The UN’s view is that the Tory government should focus on ensuring that the rights of disabled people are upheld. Perhaps Mr Green’s problem with such a view has more to do with his government’s plan to strip disabled people of all their human rights, replacing them with a list of things that Tories think we may be allowed to have.
“We strongly refute its findings,” said Mr Green. Oh really? Where is this refutation, then? For clarity, if a person refutes an assertion, they are providing evidence to demonstrate that it is false or wrong. Mr Green provides no such evidence.
He said, “The UN measures success as the amount of money poured into the system, rather than the work and health outcomes for disabled people.” This is a lie.
Only one part of the UN’s recommendations refers to the amount of money spent on people with disabilities – and it does not say anything about whether the UK government currently spends enough.
It calls on the Conservative Government to “Ensure that public budgets take into account the rights of persons with disabilities, that sufficient budget allocations are made available to cover extra costs associated with living with a disability and that appropriate mitigation measures, with appropriate budget allocations, are in place for persons with disabilities affected by austerity measures”.
Mr Green’s criticism is more appropriate directed at himself – he demonstrated that his government measures its success in money terms by telling the Guardian it spends £50 billion a year supporting people with disabilities, and went further by claiming this is a larger proportion of the nation’s wealth than that of Canada, France and the US.
In a nutshell, Mr Green’s arguments are that he does not want disabled people to have any rights, so the UN’s rights-based arguments are irrelevant; that he measures his success according to the amount of money spent on pushing disabled people into work, whether they can do it or not, and that – underpinning his entire philosophy – he relies on an outdated and discredited model of disability, that was originally created to allow a corrupt American insurance company to dodge paying out on its policies.
Put like that, it seems – in this situation – he is the one who cannot support himself.
The work and pensions secretary, Damian Green, has dismissed a critical UN report that concluded that the UK government’s austerity policies “systematically violated” the rights of disabled people.
Green said the report was “patronising and offensive” and presented an outdated view of disability in the UK. He said Britain was “a world leader in disability rights and equality”.
Green said: “At the heart of this report lies an outdated view of disability which is patronising and offensive. We strongly refute its findings. The UN measures success as the amount of money poured into the system, rather than the work and health outcomes for disabled people. Our focus is on helping disabled people find and stay in work, whilst taking care of those who can’t.”
The government said it spent about £50bn a year to support sick and disabled people – a bigger proportion of GDP than countries including Canada, France and the US.
It said the recent publication of its work and health green paper, which included ambitious proposals to increase employment levels among disabled people, was “a turning point in our action to confront the attitudes, prejudices and misunderstandings within the minds of employers and across wider society.”
Before anybody quibbles with my figures, they are accurate, covering the period between December 2011 and May 28, 2014.
As one of those who contributed a large volume of evidence to the United Nations’ investigation, This Writer welcomes its findings.
At the time of writing, I haven’t read the full report but, from the article extract below, it seems my argument – and that of the others who provided similar insight – has been persuasive.
The Conservative Government’s claim that it presents an inaccurate picture of life for disabled people in the UK is a lie.
Based on what is said in the report below, I’d say the UN has it exactly right.
Perhaps the Tories would like to demonstrate where the UN has it wrong? I’d like to be shown the evidence that tens of thousands of people haven’t been harmed by Tory policies. Let’s see it.
Particularly filthy is the comment that, “while the government continues to improve and build on the support available to disabled people, it stands by and is proud of its record.”
This government’s record is of killing more than 2,380 people for no very good reason.
I am bitterly amused by the recommendation that the government carry out a cumulative impact assessment, examining the effects of all its spending cuts on people with disabilities. The Tories have already argued that such an assessment of its “welfare reforms” was impossible – only to be proved wrong by another organisation, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission.
It seems doubtful the Tories will carry out now what they said was impossible before.
And I despair of any good coming from the UN report. Those of us who know the situation may take heart from the knowledge that the international community agrees with us – but those who pay attention to the Daily Mail will choose to believe the Tories.
And what help with the United Nations provide? How will that organisation penalise the UK government for the thousands of deaths it has caused?
It won’t. Look at the effect of its report on the Bedroom Tax – the Mail (and other Tory-supporting rags) simply slagged off the woman who wrote it.
So the question remains.
How many people have to die before the citizens of the UK wake up to the atrocities being committed in their name?
Austerity policies introduced into welfare and social care by the UK government amount to “systematic violations” of the rights of people with disabilities, a UN inquiry has concluded.
It says a range of measures aimed at reducing public spending since 2010, including controversial changes such as the bedroom tax, and cuts to disability benefits and social care budgets have disproportionately and adversely affected disabled people.
The highly critical report, published in Geneva on Monday afternoon, says the rights of disabled people to live independently, to work, and achieve an adequate standard of living have been negatively affected by austerity measures.
It makes 11 recommendations, including calling on the UK government to carry out a study of the cumulative impact of all spending cuts on disabled people, and to ensure the human rights of disabled people are upheld.
The report is withering about the manner in which ministers have conducted welfare and social care reforms, arguing that they pushed ahead with changes even when they knew they would have an adverse impact on disabled people.
Cuts such as those to personal independence payments and the independent living fund had “hindered various aspects of [disabled people’s] right to live independently”, it says, making them more reliant on family and carers and in some instances forcing them into institutional care.
The bedroom tax and other cuts to housing support had led disproportionately to debt and eviction, it says. “Evidence indicates that persons with disabilities affected by cuts in their housing benefits have undergone high levels of stress anxiety and depression as a consequence of the shortfalls in their budget.”
It is highly critical of what it calls the “functional assessments” of disabled people who have applied for social security benefits, noting that their experience tended to be one where they were “merely processed rather than being listened to or understood”.
Government attempts to decrease the disproportionately high levels of unemployment among disabled people have had little impact, the report notes, while notorious “fit-for-work” tests were riven with flaws.
It noted that disabled people had suffered from a climate in which they were portrayed as “lazy and putting a burden on taxpayers”. They had continued to experience “increasing hostility, aggressive behaviour and sometimes attacks to their personal integrity”.
The report, issued by the committee on the rights of persons with disabilities, concludes: “There is reliable evidence that the threshold of grave or systematic violations of the rights of persons with disabilities has been met.”
The inquiry was triggered after campaigners, including Dpac, made a formal complaint to the UN in 2012 about alleged violations of disabled people’s rights. After two years of deliberations, the UN committee on the rights of persons with disabilities gave the green light to the inquiry in May 2014.
The inquiry report is based on an 11-day inquiry tour of the UK undertaken by two UN envoys in October 2015. The inquiry team met with more than 200 individuals, including officials and MPs as well as activists and academics.
The UK government, however, rejected the UN report, saying in a formal response its findings presented an inaccurate picture of life for disabled people in the UK. “While the government continues to improve and build on the support available to disabled people, it stands by and is proud of its record.”
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.
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