Starved to Death...

Starved to Death...

35 posts
28 Feb 2014
jivago
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jivago
Link:-   http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/11043378.display/?ref=twtrec

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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.

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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.

What ATOS does

Atos undertakes benefits assessments for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) called work capability assessments – most people are re-assessed once a year. The DWP then makes a decision based on Atos recommendations.
Over the last few weeks protests have been held outside more than 100 Atos centres including its Oxford offices in St Aldate’s.
Last week Atos revealed it wanted to quit its £500m Government contract early because of threats made to its staff.
Yesterday, it was reported in several national newspapers that Atos staff have been told to leave all current employment and support allowance claimants on their benefit, without repeat medical checks, until another company can be found to do assessments.
Posted 28 Feb 2014
profilepictures
Photographer
profilepictures
Whichever way anyone chooses to view all this, something(s) is dreadfully wrong with the way we run our country right now.

Posted 1 March 2014
paulford
Photographer
paulford
Need to save money to pay for "other" people that may "visit" this free for some country.

Posted 1 March 2014
stolenfaces
Photographer
stolenfaces
paulford
Need to save money to pay for "other" people that may "visit" this free for some country.
What a valuable and concerned comment! You exemplify the sad state of this country. It is a fine Yorkshire tradition to blame foreigners for the everything . I bet 'some of your best friends' are foreign and everyone in your bier keller agrees with you. .... and as you want to be zenophobic why not focus on the fact that ATOS is a french company taking huge sums of our taxes to do a very poor job.
Posted 1 March 2014
Edited by stolenfaces 1 March 2014
profilepictures
Photographer
profilepictures
I really can't believe that neither (Atos- who I sent staff to in a previous life, for assessment, and found to be a total waste of time) not the dwp made contact with this gentlemans GP before making their decision. I'd have thought a GP remains one of the few public figures highly regarded by every walk of life. Plainly their decision was not based on medical advice and plainly they now recognise the ambiguous and irrelevant nature of their 'expertise' and are trying to wiggle out of the contract. I firmly think this becomes a case of negligence and that someone be held responsible.

Posted 1 March 2014
stolenfaces
Photographer
stolenfaces
Very similar to the 'Girl in coma passed fit for work' case also reported this week. The main difference was that she ended up in a coma rather than dead. It was stress of being told she was 'fit for work' that put her in a coma.
I think they don't ask GPs in case they are sympathetic (subject to an admin fee of course). The onus is on the subject to present evidence, which is difficult when the subject is vulnerable or has any sort of learning/mental issues.

It is obviously a grossly inefficient use of taxpayers money, spending all this money on incorrectly assessing thousands of people to save a pittance from a few who are genuinely playing the system. The people who are really ripping off the benefits system are the rich, both as landlords (Queen, Prince Charles, Duke of Westminster, various dodgy off-shore entities...) and as entrepreneurs who don't pay their workers a living wage so the taxpayer subsidies their wage bill and their healthy profits. If a company can't afford to pay their workers they are not viable and shouldn't be propped up by stealth subsidies.


Posted 1 March 2014
Edited by stolenfaces 1 March 2014
jivago
Photographer
jivago
stolenfaces

Very similar to the 'Girl in coma passed fit for work' case also reported this week. The main difference was that she ended up in a coma rather than dead. It was stress of being told she was 'fit for work' that put her in a coma. I think they don't ask GPs in case they are sympathetic (subject to an admin fee of course). The onus is on the subject to present evidence, which is difficult when the subject is vulnerable or has any sort of learning/mental issues. It is obviously a grossly inefficient use of taxpayers money, spending all this money on incorrectly assessing thousands of people to save a pittance from a few who are genuinely playing the system. The people who are really ripping off the benefits system are the rich, both as landlords (Queen, Prince Charles, Duke of Westminster, various dodgy off-shore entities...) and as entrepreneurs who don't pay their workers a living wage so the taxpayer subsidies their wage bill and their healthy profits. If a company can't afford to pay their workers they are not viable and shouldn't be propped up by stealth subsidies.


Apposite! - It is only right to remember the cost of cuts - And that they are not being born by this Government.

Posted 1 March 2014
profilepictures

I really can't believe that neither (Atos- who I sent staff to in a previous life, for assessment, and found to be a total waste of time) not the dwp made contact with this gentlemans GP before making their decision. I'd have thought a GP remains one of the few public figures highly regarded by every walk of life. Plainly their decision was not based on medical advice and plainly they now recognise the ambiguous and irrelevant nature of their 'expertise' and are trying to wiggle out of the contract. I firmly think this becomes a case of negligence and that someone be held responsible.


From the Guardian:

"Concerned about his patient's condition, Wood's doctor, Nicholas Ward, wrote a letter for Wood to pass to the jobcentre in support of his benefits application, stating that he was "extremely unwell and absolutely unfit for any work whatsoever".

The letter, presented to the inquest, stated that his anxiety disorder and obsessional traits had been made "significantly worse" because of the pressure put on him by benefit changes. It continued: "Please do not stop or reduce his benefits as this will have ongoing, significant impact on his mental health. He simply is not well enough to cope with this extra stress. His mental and medical condition is extremely serious."

It was not clear whether the letter reached the jobcentre."

So we can assume they didn't since the GP felt the need to contact them. I think they stopped involving actual doctors in benefit decisions when they kept giving answers they didn't like.

Posted 1 March 2014
profilepictures
Photographer
profilepictures
And this to garner favour with the 'hard working families of Britain'? Which tax payer wants to see the most vulnerable and needy die through lack of £40 a week?

Or Is it the anti fraud theme? That sum of sneakily won monies contained within the 4 billion total spend on welfare? That'll fix our problems more easily than making Vodaphone pay their tax bill?

I mention no political party here, the matter is beyond political colour now and in the realms of business riding roughshod over democracy and any kind of decency. It's a global story.

Posted 1 March 2014
paulford
Photographer
paulford
stolenfaces
What a valuable and concerned comment! You exemplify the sad state of this country. It is a fine Yorkshire tradition to blame foreigners for the everything . I bet 'some of your best friends' are foreign and everyone in your bier keller agrees with you. .... and as you want to be zenophobic why not focus on the fact that ATOS is a french company taking huge sums of our taxes to do a very poor job.
Sort of reply to expect from a southern softie.
Posted 1 March 2014
OldMaster
Photographer
OldMaster
...."Need to save money to pay for "other" people that may "visit" this free for some country"..

If this is a crass xenophobic reference to our immigrants, not only is it tabloid trash but it is also wrong.

The immigrant workers pay far more into the system than they ever take out and they actually are a considerable benefit to GDP..aside from the fact that many work in the NHS and care professions in jobs that frankly either UK citizens wont do or aren't capable of doing to the same standard?

But I guess some will keep banging the rocks together...it seems Doncaster might be one of the centres for the Neanderthal?

"Sort of reply to expect from a southern softie"..I rest my case if this is the best negligibly intelligent response this person can manage?

The actual OP is indeed a sad indictment of this "arms length from the government" agency that has been put in place to withdraw benefits from those that need them most. I was delighted to read that they are turning down the opportunity to destroy peoples lives for another term, because, bless them, some of them have been receiving death threats..too good for them.

I would love to know what their CE pays himself whilst they are telling terminal cancer victims they could squeeze in a few months more work before they die. SCUM.
Posted 1 March 2014
Edited by OldMaster 1 March 2014
Lysander
Photographer
Lysander
It's easy to blame ATOS, [ I've been through the assessment mill twice so far ], but the government, [it doesn't matter whether you refer to the last one or the current one ], has been cutting spending where ever they can.
The whole point of using arms-length contracts is that they don't have to use civil service contracts which offer work protection and [reduced compared to the past] pension rights. Hello zero-hour contracts.
It also allows them to shift the blame. [ Bad ATOS, you did what the DWP told you to do, bad DWP, you did what the Cabinet told you to do ].
In a few years time, when everyone is blaming G4S or whoever holds the contract, they'll just shift the contract to another company, KFC or Kwik-Fit.
Governments are never afraid of an apathetic or complacent electorate but they can be rattled by an active and determined one.

Posted 1 March 2014
tonycsm
Photographer
tonycsm
Tragic is one word for it! 

However, there are lots of genuinely'disabled people who I've known or know who do work for a living but in certain quarters, once someone is in receipt of disabilty benefit it seems any form of re-assessment as to whether one is fit or not to do some form of work at some point is met with hostility, particularly from the left.. Not all disabilities are permanent and not all disabilities prevent people from doing some form of work so there has to be some form of re-evaluation balance.

Over the years I've also known quite a number of claimants who were 'supposedly' physically disabled, receiving all the benefits, cars etc, yet they were equally as active as myself...they're the ones spoiling it for the genuine claimants.

To be blunt ...there was **** all wrong with them that removing their benefits wouldn't have put right and before anyone chimes in asking if I'm a doctor, I knew these people personally and all were supposed suffering from 'bad backs' yet they could in most cases, do some physically activities that I couldn't - their biggest problem was their aversion to working for a living and knew every trick in the book on how to avoid doing so.
One even had a 4 x 4 as a mobility vehicle....so that he could get his scuba diving equipment in and out more easily!
My partner's sister is registered as nearly blind yet she moved to London, went to university, studied hard and became a  lawyer and is now working full time....she could have sat at home, claimed benefits being registered as disabled, but instead chose to work.

There's nothing wrong with reviewing a claimant's continued entitlement to receive disability benefit providing it's done fairly and proportionately - clearly in this case it wasn't done correctly and the poor chap who was clearly suffering from serious mental health issues was failed miserably.

It's much easier to identify someone with a genuine physial disability, but often far harder to identfy those with with genuine mental health issues...these are the vulnerable people who need protecting in our society with a better level of advocacy to speak out for and protect them in these situations.

This and any government has a duty to reduce fraudulent claims from the taxpayers money... it's who they employ to carry out the evaluations here that is the problem and why this case was so tragic.


Posted 3 March 2014
Edited by tonycsm 3 March 2014
mattharper
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mattharper
stolenfaces

.................... If a company can't afford to pay their workers they are not viable and shouldn't be propped up by stealth subsidies.



better close them down then, so the the then EX-EMPLOYEES can be totally dependent on the state.

One can always rely on you to come out with the most ridiculous comments
Posted 3 March 2014
stolenfaces
Photographer
stolenfaces
mattharper
better close them down then, so the the then EX-EMPLOYEES can be totally dependent on the state. One can always rely on you to come out with the most ridiculous comments
Where do you draw the line then, how much state subsidy should a failing business get, presumably you support the DWP's attempts to supply staff to people like Poundland as free labour. Surprisingly (if you're a bit simple, it's surprising) wages are driven down further and the owners of the companies pay themselves more, and their tax advisers more. If a company pays a decent wage, how can they compete with one receiving a taypayer subsidy unless they too reduce wages. If you're saying that capitalism doesn't work then let's not pretend it does. If you want all companies to be eligible for hidden subsidies, why not admit that the system has failed and embrace state ownership. Of course the ex-employees you talk of are already totally dependent on the state, if they rely on the state to pay their rent. ps Even Osbourne has been calling for the minimum wage to be increased for this reason.
Posted 3 March 2014
Edited by stolenfaces 3 March 2014
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