Post by nickd (Mylegal) on Feb 28, 2014 22:06:57 GMT
How many more of these stories do we need to read before everyone wakes up?
Man starved after benefits were cut
By Katriona Ormiston February 28th 2014
A "VULNERABLE and fragile" man starved to death four months after most of his benefits were stopped and he was left with just £40 a week to survive on.
Atos Healthcare – which assesses peoples’ ability to work on behalf of the Government’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) – assessed that 44-year-old Mark Wood, from Bampton, was fit to work.
But at an inquest into his death, Oxford Coroner's Court heard testimony that Mr Wood was far from fit to hold down a job.
Weighing just 5st 8lbs when he died of malnutrition in August last year, Mr Wood had obsessive compulsive disorder, Aspergers syndrome, phobias of food, pollution, paint fumes, and social situations, and cognitive behavioural problems.
His GP Nicolas Ward told yesterday’s proceedings: “He was an extremely vulnerable and fragile individual who was coping with life.
“Something pushed him or affected him in the time before he died and the only thing I can put my finger on is the pressure he felt he was under when his benefits were removed.”
Dr Ward, from Bampton Medical Practice, said he had not been contacted by either Atos or DWP about Mr Wood’s medical history, and revealed that if they had asked for his professional opinion he would have said Mr Wood was unfit for work.
Mr Wood had been receiving housing benefit, employment and support allowance, and disability living allowance of £40 a week and had been living independently since 2006.
But in January last year Atos Healthcare assessed that Mr Wood was healthy and able to work. Following its assessment, in about April last year, Mr Wood’s housing benefits and employment support allowance were stopped by the DWP, leaving just the disability allowance.
The inquest heard he was not able to pay his rent of utility bills.
Mr Wood’s family claim their “gentle and sweet” son and brother would still be alive if his benefits had not been stopped.
His sister Cathie Wood, 48, from North Oxford, told the Oxford Mail: “Atos are completely to blame. If they had not evaluated him as normal he would have carried on in his own way and would not have died last summer.”
His mother Jill Gant, from Abingdon, explained to the coroner that the family only found out Mr Wood did not have any money a few weeks before he died and sent him £250.
Ms Wood said: “By then it was too late, he was so fragile and unstable. We didn’t realise how bad things were.
“He found it difficult to accept help from his family because he tried to live independently so he gave the money away.
“He had a lot of problems, but he was very gentle and sweet.”
At the inquest, Mrs Gant said: “I think he died of the severe effects of malnutrition, but there were precipitating causes.
“Extreme stress and lack of money caused by the removal of his benefits led to his eating problems, and malnutrition led to his death.”
Between April – around the time his benefits stopped – and his death his body mass index plunged from 14.1 to about 11.5. A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered healthy.
Pathologist Clare Verrill told the court a BMI below 13 could kill a man but a cause of death could not be given because his body had decomposed. Mr Wood had last been seen alive on July 29 but his body was not discovered until August 9.
Oxfordshire Coroner Darren Salter gave a narrative verdict at the inquest. He said: “Mr Wood had an eating disorder and food phobia. It is likely that this caused or contributed to his death as he was markedly underweight and malnourished.”
He added: “I accept the evidence about something pushing him over the edge heard by the GP Mr Ward.
On the other hand we do know cash was provided prior to death, but because of his phobias he didn’t use that cash to buy food.”
His family are meeting Oxford West and Abingdon MP Nicola Blackwood next Friday to try to find out why he was declared fit for work. Ms Wood said they may consider legal proceedings.
Atos Healthcare spokeswoman Tessa David said: “Our thoughts are with the family of Mr Wood at this difficult time.
“We carry out the Government’s Work Capability Assessment as professionally and compassionately as possible.”
DWP spokesman Ann Rimell said: “A decision on whether someone is well enough to work is taken following a thorough assessment and after consideration of all the supporting medical evidence from the claimant’s GP or medical specialist.”
DWP figures show that between October 2010 and March 2013, more than 1,000 people across Oxfordshire stopped receiving employment and support allowance benefits.
Suzy Drohan, joint manager of Barton's Oxfordshire Welfare Rights, said: “It is terrible, I’m really concerned about how Mr Wood has fallen through the cracks.”
Between January 2012 and January this year Oxfordshire Welfare Rights took 312 cases to tribunal appeals against DWP decisions, and 281 were successful.
Post by nickd (Mylegal) on Mar 10, 2014 22:11:42 GMT
Why hasn't David Cameron responded to Mark Wood's sister?
Sister demands apology for brother’s death by starvation
By Damian Fantato 10th March 2014
THE family of a man who starved to death after his benefits were cut has demanded an apology from the Government.
Mark Wood, from Bampton, weighed just 5st 8lb when he died of malnutrition in August last year – four months after most of his benefits were stopped.
Atos Healthcare, which assesses people’s ability to work on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), assessed that the 44-year-old was fit to work despite the fact that he had a number of mental health problems.
Now his family have met their local MP Nicola Blackwood to recruit her in their campaign for the system to be changed and for an apology to be made.
Mr Wood’s sister Cathie, 48, said: “The Coalition Government says its reforms help the most vulnerable, and he was the most vulnerable. We just hope that he didn’t struggle in vain.
“It is too late for my brother. I am wanting to make sure that the Government is aware of, and building into its system, how they deal with mentally ill people.
“We have to ask the Government to put in place safeguards for people with mental illnesses because there were none. We also want a full apology to my family for Mark’s death.”
Ms Wood, who lives in North Oxford, said the family was considering making a legal claim against both Atos and the DWP. It is being helped by civil rights charity Liberty.
The family is also being assisted by Suzy Drohan, of Oxfordshire Welfare Rights, based in Barton, which is advising them on submitting an appeal against the decision to assess Mr Wood as fit to work.
In January last year, Atos Healthcare assessed Mr Wood as healthy and able to work and his benefits were cut to £40 a week.
An inquest at Oxfordshire Coroner’s Court heard he was not able to pay his rent or utility bills and between April, around the time his benefits were cut, and the time of his death, his body mass index plunged from 14.1 to about 11.5. Ms Blackwood said: “This is a very tragic case and, after meeting Mark Wood’s family, I have agreed with them I will continue to do whatever I can to help them find answers.
“So far the DWP responses have not been satisfactory so I am seeking a meeting with a DWP minister to discuss the case in detail.”
A spokesman for the DWP said it would not comment at this stage. Atos spokesman Tessa David said: “Our sympathies are with the family of Mr Wood.”
The Oxford Mail has been attempting to get a comment from Mr Wood’s MP, Prime Minister David Cameron, for a week, without success.
Post by nickd (Mylegal) on Mar 10, 2014 22:19:51 GMT
Another tragedy ignored.....
Father of man killed by train at Surbiton station said benefits changes ‘weighed on his mind’
By John Sharman February 21st 2014
A man hit by a train at Surbiton station is believed to have committed suicide on his 46th birthday.
Neil Groves turned 46 on the day he died and planned an evening in with his father, with a few cans of beer and some crisps in front of the television – a regular weekend ritual.
Police said his death on Thursday, February 13, just after 7.30pm, was not being treated as suspicious.
His 78-year-old father Ronald Groves, of Manordene Close in Thames Ditton, said: “He was happy here. He had a happy home. He liked watching TV programmes like Only Fools and Horses – comedies, he liked.
“He liked to do crosswords. Often if I couldn’t finish he would do it, or if he couldn’t finish I would do it.”
Neil had had an “unsettled childhood” and did not fit in at school, his father said.
He said: “His mother left when he was 20 months old so then I brought the three children up.
“I carried on a full time job at the Milk Marketing Board until I retired".
“He had never really worked. He had a few jobs when he left school.”
Mr Groves’ father said he believed a potential change to his son’s employment and support allowance (ESA) benefit “must have” weighed on Mr Groves.
He said: “He has obviously had it in his mind. They basically told him that his assessment was coming up again.
"Something pushed him or affected him in the time before he died and the only thing I can put my finger on is the pressure he felt when his benefits were removed.”
Dr Ward added that he had not been contacted by Atos – the France-based firm that carries out benefit assessments – or the Department for Work and Pensions about his patient’s medical history.
He told the court that, had he been asked, he would have ruled him unfit for work.
Following last April’s assessment, Mark, described as “gentle and sweet”, lost his housing benefit and employment support, leaving him just £40 a week disability allowance – not even enough to cover his rent or utility bills.
Mark’s mum Jill Gant, from Abingdon, said the family knew nothing of his money problems until a few weeks before his death.
She gave him £250, but said that by then it was too late.
Mark’s sister Cathie Wood, 48, of North Oxford, said: "When the police found him, there was very little food in the house, just half a banana and a tin of tuna."
She added: “Atos are completely to blame.
"Anyone who knew Mark’s complex problems would see he couldn’t work."
She added: "I’d like David Cameron and his Government to be aware of the personal cost of their policies and how they are affecting real people and causing real heartache."
In a narrative verdict, Coroner Darren Salter said it was likely that Mark’s food phobias contributed to his death.
A spokesman for Atos Healthcare said: "We carry out assessments as professionally and compassionately as possible."
Tom Pollard, Policy and Campaigns Manager at Mind, said: "We were deeply saddened to hear of the death of Mark Wood.
"Unfortunately this tragic case is not an isolated incident. We hear too often how changes to benefits are negatively impacting vulnerable individuals, who struggle to navigate a complex, and increasingly punitive, system.
"We know the assessment process for those applying for Employment and Support Allowance is very stressful, and too crude to accurately assess the impact a mental health problem has on someone’s ability to work.
"This leads to people not getting the right support and being put under excessive pressure which can make their health worse and push them further from the workplace.
"We urgently need to see a complete overhaul of the system, to ensure nobody else falls through the cracks."
A disabled woman almost certainly killed herself because she had been found “fit for work” and stripped of out-of-work disability benefits, according to a mental health watchdog.
The Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland concluded that the work capability assessment (WCA) process and the subsequent denial of employment and support allowance (ESA) was at least a “major factor in her decision to take her own life”.
The commission’s investigation report – Who benefits? The benefits assessment and death of Ms DE – concluded that the decision to strip her of out-of-work disability benefits had been based on an assessment that contained “insufficient information about her mental health”.
Ms DE killed herself after she was found “fit for work”, following an assessment by Atos Healthcare on behalf of the government.
The Atos assessor, a doctor, had decided she showed “no evidence of significant disability of mental health function”.
But neither her GP nor her psychiatrist, who had both been treating her for 20 years, was asked by Atos or the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to comment on her mental health, even though both were convinced that she was not fit for work.
She had been claiming incapacity benefit (IB), but was caught up in the national programme to reassess all IB claimants through the much-criticised WCA process.
Ms DE was found dead in her home on 31 December 2011, 13 days before her ESA was to be stopped. She had told a welfare rights adviser that she did not know how she would be able to pay her mortgage.
Her psychiatrist said there were no other factors he knew of that could have caused her to take her own life.
She was going to have to move onto jobseeker’s allowance, which would have meant a “significant drop in her income”, from £94.25 a week to £67.50.
Dr Donald Lyons, the commission’s chief executive, told Disability News Service: “There was not anything else that we could determine was happening in her life [that could have caused her to kill herself].
“There was evidence that things were getting better for her, [but] she was extremely distressed by the whole process of assessment and being refused ESA.
“Unquestionably, the process and the denial of ESA were certainly at least a major factor in her decision to take her own life.”
The commission concluded that the WCA needed to be “more sensitive to mental health issues”, and that it was “disappointed at how the DWP communicated with Ms DE”.
The case was brought to the commission’s attention because psychiatrists in the area where Ms DE lived “felt that changes in the benefits system were having a major adverse effect on their patients”.
The commission carried out a survey of Scottish psychiatrists to ask them how they thought the WCA had impacted on their patients.
Of the 56 who replied and had patients who had undergone a WCA, three-quarters said they had not been asked for their opinion at any point in the process by either Atos or DWP, while 96 per cent said their patients had been “distressed” by the WCA process.
Two-fifths had at least one patient who had self-harmed following a WCA – partly as a result of the assessment process or outcome – and 13 per cent stated that at least one patient had attempted to take their own life, partly again as a result of the assessment.
More than one-third said that at least one of their patients had been admitted to hospital as a result of the WCA.
The report says: “Commonly reported were increased stress, anxiety and thoughts of suicide. In some cases the stress had severely destabilised patients.”
It adds: “The overall theme of the responses was the distress caused to patients and consequent demands on mental health services.”
The report makes a series of recommendations, particularly for improving the WCA process for claimants with mental health conditions, and for how Atos and DWP must ensure their communication with claimants “is compliant with the requirements of the Equality Act”.
John McArdle, a co-founder of the user-led grassroots campaign group Black Triangle, said the case of Ms DE had disturbing similarities to that of the Scottish poet Paul Reekie, who killed himself in 2010 after being told that his incapacity benefit and his housing benefit were being stopped.
McArdle said: “It is an identical set of circumstances and it is still happening. It is shocking.”
He said it would be four years in June since Reekie’s death. “It is just heart-breaking. The evidence [of connections between people with mental health conditions being found fit for work and then killing themselves] is now in the public domain and it is irrefutable.”
And he said he was appalled by DWP’s response to the commission’s recommendations, in which it insisted that it was “important to retain a balance between the added value of further evidence in any claim for ESA and the demands on the time of GPs and other healthcare professionals”.
McArdle said: “This is a callous way to approach the safety and wellbeing of disabled people who are at risk of suicide.”
Post by nickd (Mylegal) on Apr 4, 2014 22:30:30 GMT
Woman killed herself after benefits cuts left her terrified she would lose her home
March 27th 2014 By Chris Richards
The former officer worker and mother-of-one, referred to as Ms DE, lived in Scotland and was in her early fifties
Cuts: A woman in Scotland killed herself after she became terrified she would lose her home
A woman killed herself after benefits cuts left her terrified she would lose her home.
Mental health watchdogs have demanded changes to Government welfare policy in light of the shocking case.
The woman was signed off work by medics after suffering from depression - but following an Atos assessment she was ruled fit for employment.
The DWP reduced her benefits in light of the ruling - made without consulting the woman's doctors - and she committed suicide when she feared she’d be unable to pay her mortgage.
The Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland, which investigated the tragedy, found important shortcomings in the Government-sponsored tests and a lack of sensitivity to the impact they could have on people's lives.
The commission’s report made 13 recommendations it believed would improve the system, including a key measure that an applicant’s medical reports should be obtained to assess a claim for individuals with a mental illness or learning disability – a practice which is not currently routine.
And yesterday more shocking statistics emerged from the report, which had sought the views of 70 psychiatrists on how the assessments were affecting patients.
It revealed 13 per cent of the doctors had at least one patient who had attempted suicide as a result of the assessment process, while 35 per cent had patients admitted to hospital.
Some 96 per cent of psychiatrists said they had at least one patient who was distressed after an assessment, while 85 per cent said it had led to patients needing more frequent appointments, and 65 per cent had patients needing stronger medication.
Dr Donald Lyons, the commission’s chief executive, said the findings indicated the current assessment process was “flawed” and “unreliable”.
He said: “I don’t think there is enough understanding of the momentous impact these assessments can have.”
On the woman’s suicide, he said: “There was nothing else going on in this woman’s life that we could identify [as to why she took her own life].
“She was engaged, she was looking forward to getting married. The only thing that was going on was the benefit assessment.
“I think the DWP should reflect on this case and learn from it. It does suggest, that certainly, with regard to people with mental health problems, the assessment process is flawed and unreliable.”
The commission’s report said the former officer worker and mother-of-one, referred to as Ms DE, lived in Scotland and was in her early fifties. She had suffered from depression for 20 years and was under the care of a consultant psychiatrist and a GP.
She had worked for most of her life but had given up her job a few years earlier when her illness deteriorated.
She was found dead on Hogmanay 2011 after taking an overdose fearing she would be unable to pay her mortgage because of a substantial drop in income following changes to her benefits.
The DWP’s work capability assessment – the test carried out to see if someone is fit to work – found she was able to return to work and she was told she would move from £94.25 a week incapacity benefit to £67.50 jobseeker’s allowance.
Ms DE’s best friend and doctors told the inquiry she had been highly distressed and was plunged into crisis when she received the letter informing her of the change.
Under the assessment process Atos, the firm which interviewed the woman, was not required to seek further information from her GP or consultant – both of whom believed she was not well enough to return to work.
Labour MSP Jackie Baillie, shadow social justice minister, said: “This case is heart-wrenching. It shows just how broken the benefits assessment system is under Tory reforms.
“It is imperative the Tory/Lib Dem government scrap these changes and ensure any replacement treats people with disabilities with dignity and respect.”
Post by nickd (Mylegal) on May 15, 2014 19:42:48 GMT
When will Britain wake up to this catalogue of atrocities?
Father from Hendon took fatal overdose after benefits were cut
By Chris Hewitt 14th May 2014
A father-of-one took a fatal overdose of prescription medication after becoming increasingly worried about his finances when his benefits were cut, an inquest heard this afternoon.
North London Coroner’s Court heard how Michael Connolly, of Station Road, Hendon, took a massive overdose of pills, consuming more than 13 times the fatal dose on October 31 – his birthday.
The 60-year-old plumber, who had a history of alcohol abuse and depression, was found dead at his flat by his sister after relatives became concerned when they could not contact him. The inquest heard how Mr Connolly had recently been told by the local authority his benefits were due to be cut, a ruling he was planning to appeal with the help of his family.
Mr Connolly had been admitted to a rehab programme for alcohol abuse in 2009 and had various stages of recovery and relapse.
In 2012 he was given prescription medicine for severe back pain and told his GP he was struggling with his drink dependency.
Family members explained to the inquest that, although he could be reckless at times, it was “not in his nature” to want to kill himself.
Coroner Andrew Walker recorded an open conclusion on Mr Connolly’s death, explaining that he could not be sure beyond doubt that his intention that day had been to commit suicide.
The number of conclusions of suicide recorded by a coroner rose by 7% in 2013 compared to 2012, from 3,515 to 3,754, reflecting in part the 5% increase in total conclusions recorded. Since 2007 the number of suicide conclusions has shown a slight upward trend, however, the number of suicide conclusions as a proportion of the total has remained at 12% since 2011. Also rising were the number of unclassified conclusions, a category which includes narrative conclusions, which are a factual record of how and in what circumstances the death occurred, often recorded where the cause of death does not easily fit any of the standard short-form conclusions.
Post by nickd (Mylegal) on May 20, 2014 21:15:43 GMT
Unemployed gardener aged 20 hanged himself after applying for 40 jobs in 3 months without success
By Steve Robson May 20th 2014
Martin Hadfield refused to claim benefits and killed himself following a "demoralising" visit to a Job Centre, an inquest has heard
An unemployed gardener desperate for work killed himself after he was left "demoralised" by hours of form-filling at his local job centre.
Hard working Martin Hadfield, 20, was so keen to get a job he refused to claim any welfare handouts and applied for 40 posts in the space of three months.
But he failed to get responses on almost every application after being "undercut" on wages by younger and more inexperienced candidates.
According to his family his period out of work and government red tape left him feeling "put down with no self worth."
Just 24 hours after a meeting where job centre staff invited him to a "follow up" meeting, Martin was found hanged at his flat in Tottington, near Bury, Greater Manchester.
Following an inquest today, his stepfather Peter O'Gorman, 47, a car valeter said: "Martin was obviously never a statistic to us but in the last months of his life he became a statistic to other people.
"He was a statistic by being out of work, a statistic when he went into the job centre and now he a statistic by killing himself.
"Sadly this statistic seems to be growing especially in boys Martin's age who are struggling in the current climate, or struggling with life and they forget to think about talking to someone.