“You have nothing to fear…It is a proud duty to provide financial security to the most vulnerable members of our society, and this will not change. This is our contract with the most vulnerable”. That was Iain Duncan Smith in 2010. He added: “This government and this party don’t regard caring for the needy as a burden”. But judging by the remarks of Lord Freud, the Tory DWP minister, maybe they regard it as a big money-spinning project for private companies. This is Freud: “We’re going to go at this (moving people off IB on to either ESA or JSA) very fast and hard….The scale of the potential market is large…I have no doubt that this will be an annual multi-billion pound market”. So what has happened? The People’s Review of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) has just published this month a searing indictment of the human casualties of this policy, including those absurdly assessed as fit to work but who then died or committed suicide before their appeal was heard. The report, which I strongly recommend others to get hold of, makes grim reading. Here are 3 examples of the 14 quoted in detail.
The family of a 47 year old man said the decision to stop his benefits was a “major trigger” in a spiral which led him to overdose on heroin, cocaine and alcohol. At his inquest, which lasted 2 days, the court heard that his medical assessment took just 23 minutes and his allowance was stopped despite him suffering from HIV, hepatitis C, sciatica, severe depression, insomnia and dental pain.
A man was found hanging at his home just a day after he received a text message telling him to attend the Jobcentre. He had been unable to work after he suffered a brain haemorrhage and a stroke and had his his leg fused following a football injury. He wore a calliper and couldn’t grip with his hand. His partner said: “The text scared him so much. He had been depressed for years, but he could keep that under control. It was the text which pushed him over. I want people to realise the effect of these changes on people’s lives. These changes are terrifying to vulnerable people and their concerns need to be listened to. It can have a devastating effect on people’s lives”.
A seriously ill woman died 2 days after trying to kill herself when she was told her incapacity benefit would be stopped. The coroner’s court was told she had received a letter from the DWP saying she should go back to work. The 53-year old, who suffered breathlessness because of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, was so distressed she took a cocktail of drugs.
A man who had a serious blood disorder, had blood clots in both lungs, two deep vein thromboses in his legs and had to have his big toe amputated, was diagnosed with Hughes syndrome, a life-threatening condition. He had been left without work by the Benefits Agency for 10 weeks, despite being signed off as unfit to work by the doctor. He committed suicide and was found by his fiance’e.
I have put down a PQ asking how many persons have died or committed suicide each month over the last 3 years after being required to attend for a WCA or having been assessed as fit to work and then appealed, but died or committed suicide before the appeal was heard. I shall publish the figures when I have them.