As directors and other officers of the Department of Work and Pensions receive new year’s honours for services to ‘welfare reform’, a reader draws attention to an article in the Dorset Eye, by Douglas James, listing 82 people who have died or committed suicide soon after dealings with agencies such as ATOS and the government’s Department of Work and Pensions.
A search was made for news of the first five on the Dorset Eye list and the links to fuller accounts added. Most of the people were aged 30-40.
Terry McGarvey, 48. Dangerously ill from Polycythemia, Terry asked for an ambulance to be called during his ATOS Work Capability Assessment (WCA). He knew that he wasn’t well enough to attend but feared that his benefits would be stopped if he did not. He died the following day. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/terry-mcgarvey-man-ill-attend-3178486
Elaine Lowe, 53. Suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and fearful of losing her benefits. In desperation, Elaine chose to commit suicide. http://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/suicide-bid-of-woman-who-feared-losing-her-incapacity-benefit-8761182.html
Mark Wood, 44. Found fit for work by Atos, against his doctor’s advice and assertions that he had complex mental health problems. Starved to death after benefits stopped, weighing only 5st 8lb when he died. http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/11043378.Man_starved_after_benefits_were_cut/
Paul Reekie, 48, the Leith based poet and author. Paul suffered from severe depression and committed suicide after the DWP stopped his benefits due to an Atos ‘fit for work’ decision. http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/news/claim-welfare-reforms-drove-writer-paul-reekie-to-suicide-1-2269052
Leanne Chambers, 30 from County Durham. Leanne suffered depression for many years which took a turn for the worse when she was called in for a WCA. Leanne committed suicide soon after. http://www.thejournal.co.uk/news/north-east-news/boyfriend-missing-leanne-chambers-speaks-4465236
Karen Sherlock, 44, from Portsmouth. Karen suffered from multiple health issues but was found fit for work by Atos and denied her lifeline benefits. She fought a long battle to get placed into the Employment and Support Group (ESA) and died the following month of a heart attack. http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/327050/My-ill-wife-had-to-fight-for-benefits-up-until-she-died
A year ago the BBC said that over 2000 people died after being found fit for work and losing benefits, according to Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) figures. Between December 2011 and February 2014 the equivalent of about 90 people a month died after their Employment and Support Allowance claim was ended. The DWP said no link could be assumed between the deaths and claimants being deemed fit for work.
After a Freedom of Information request suggested the information about deaths linked to Work Capability Assessment is being ‘covered up’, three political parties have called for an independent enquiry into deaths linked to government reforms.
As Northern Ireland farmers combine to continue their cross-party diplomacy MP Nigel Evans has been contacted by his constituent, a Lancashire dairy farmer.
The message opens by referring to a question by Richard Arkless (SNP Dumfries & Galloway) on the 29th January to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, asking what steps the Government is taking to support milk producers in ensuring milk prices in supermarkets are maintained.
George Eustice (minister for Farming, Food and the Marine Environment) responded that the government is supporting the farming industry by reducing red tape. The farmer corrects this answer:
“This is untrue in the case of dairy farmers whose financial risk and responsibility is great and whose product is highly perishable”.
“In fact, dairy farmers are increasingly being required to spend precious time producing statistical information of little worth other than to help meet the targets of individuals within large and powerful organisations whose employment is indirectly funded by taxpayers or by compulsory levy imposed upon producers”.
The minister referred to a £26.6m aid package for the UK from the EU – a one-off, flat rate payment linked to milk production – administered by DEFRA’s Regional Payments Agency.
Did it arrive? FG Insight reports that once again, “Thousands of farmers across the UK are suffering frustrating and, in some cases, crippling waits for their new Basic Payments as administrations to struggle with the new scheme.”. A Freedom of Information request reveals that nearly 8,927 farmers have been placed in the late payment tranche alongside 4,722 commons farmers, 379 cross-border claims and 342 with ’multiple issues’. It revealed that the assessment about these payments had been made back in August. Computer Weekly confirms that – after successive software releases failed to resolve problems – a £154m system to process claims for EU subsidy payments to farmers hit problems has forced applicants to resort to paper forms.
Our farming correspondent points out that the RPA will be fined by the EU for this delay at British taxpayers expense, if deadlines are not met.
Describing the ‘solutions’ offered by industry advisers and financial institutions, encouraging farmers to increase borrowings, expand herd sizes and increase production, it is feared that these will “intensify an already precarious situation, as efficient non-aligned British dairy farmers struggle to meet ordinary running costs let alone make essential reinvestments”.
The Lancashire dairy farmer ends, “For dairy farmers, real progress and growth does not come from individual enterprises ruthlessly undercutting and competing with each other to counter inappropriate commercial or government interference, but by ebbing and flowing with the tide and doing what is best in their own district for their own farm, their own family, their own animals and their own environment, with the resources available, as an integral part of the wider rural community”.