(not satire – it’s the UK today!)
Austerity kills. It killed Mark Wood and it killed David Clapson. Both starved to death as a direct consequence of the coalition government’s austerity programme. Both were vulnerable adults who starved alone, bewildered at being punished by those they thought were helping them.
The two people closest to these victims will share a platform on 27 November in Witney, David Cameron’s constituency. Cathie Wood, the sister of Mark Wood, and Gill Thompson, the sister of David Clapson, will demand to know why their brothers died at the hands of the state. They are determined that other vulnerable people should not share their brothers’ fate, victims of an inhuman political ideology.
“We are sticking to the task. But that doesn’t just mean making difficult decisions on public spending. It also means something more profound. It means building a leaner, more efficient state. We need to do more with less. Not just now, but permanently.”
David Cameron, Lord Mayor’s banquet, 11 November 2014
Mark Wood lived in Bampton, where he struggled to manage independently. He was a Green Party member and a constituent of our prime minister. Unaccountably, an Atos assessment suddenly declared him fit to work and stripped him of his disability benefit. His doctor was not consulted. Mark considered his remaining weekly allowance of just £40 to be all he deserved. He weighed a little over 5 stone when his body was found. Atos no longer wishes to carry out assessments on behalf of this government.
“My brother Mark was a vulnerable and gentle man with many mental health problems – he starved to death as a direct result of ATOS/DWP declaring him 100% fit to work and stopping his benefits. On appeal after his death, the decision was reversed and admitted to be wrong – too late for Mark. We are still chasing the results of the DWP internal enquiry into the decision – it’s been postponed 3 times. What are they trying to hide? I believe that people like Mark have been sacrificed to benefit cuts. I want to hold the government to account to stop this happening to other vulnerable people.”
Cathie Wood, Mark Wood’s sister
David Clapson had been a soldier and in work nearly all his life. When David missed an appointment with the Department of Work and Pensions, his benefits were abruptly stopped. With electricity cut off, David had no means of keeping the insulin he required as a diabetic. David died with six tea bags, a tin of sardines, a can of tomato soup and £3.44 in the bank. When his body was discovered, his stomach was empty. The DWP declared that correct procedures had been followed. As a result of a campaign by David’s sister, the DWP is conducting an inquiry.
“I don’t want revenge or compensation; I just want lessons to be learned. … There is no humanity and they are getting the little people. Why sanction vulnerable and needy people?… I don’t think anyone should die like that in this country, alone, hungry and penniless.”
Gill Thompson, David Clapson’s sister
In 2013 alone, 871,000 people were sanctioned, losing some or all of their benefit payments for weeks, sometimes months. Such people do not automatically find a job, but fall deeper into debt, suffering extreme stress and exacerbating the medical problems that made work difficult in the first place. Mark Wood and David Clapson both died penniless and alone when their benefits were cut. These tragedies move us to question the sanity of sanctions What are they supposed to achieve?
Many of the people who will have been sanctioned will have been vulnerable, or will have become vulnerable and be living on the minimum, like my brother. He was not living on champagne and caviar, he was barely existing. The vulnerable do not shout out, they just suffer in silence. They are easy targets.
Gill Thompson, David Clapson’s sister
A civilised society does not allow people to starve to death, least of all those too vulnerable to look after themselves. What price is too great to pay for the government’s political and populist witch hunt against benefit cheats and scroungers? The Green Party asks how much blood money is too much.
Join them on Thursday evening, 27 November.
Why Did Mark Wood and David Clapson Starve to Death?
Find out first hand from Mark and David’s sisters, Cathie Wood and Gill Thomson
7.30 pm Thursday 27 November
Langdale Hall, Market Square, Witney, Oxfordshire, OX28 6AB
Green Party prospective parliamentary candidate for the Witney constituency
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