openDemocracyUK

David Cameron: Hold an inquiry into benefit sanctions that killed my brother

My brother, David Clapson, a diabetic ex-soldier, died starving and destitute because he was penalised by the Job Centre for missing a meeting.

Gill Thompson
3 August 2014

David had his £71.70 weekly allowance stopped meaning that he couldn’t afford food or electricity. He was penniless, starving and alone. His electricity card was out of credit meaning the fridge where he should have kept his diabetes insulin chilled was not working. Three weeks after his benefits were stopped he died from diabetic ­ketoacidosis – caused by not taking his insulin. 

David wasn’t a “scrounger”. He had worked for 29 years; 5 years in the Army – including two years in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, during the height of the troubles – 16 years with British Telecom, eight years with various other companies, and in recent years was a carer for our sick mother. When mum went into a home, David turned to the state for help, receiving benefits while he looked for work and taking unpaid work placements.

When he died he had just £3.44 to his name, six tea bags, a tin of soup and an out-of-date can of sardines. A coroner also found he had no food in his stomach.

People turn to the state when they are in need - that is what the system is for - a safety net for hard working people like my brother when they need a bit of support. That £71.70 a week was his lifeline. To withhold it from him for missing one meeting is cruel. And the heartbreaking thing is that he was really trying. CVs for job applications were found near David’s body. He had been on work placements, passed his fork lift truck certificate and had been on a computer training course.

Like many others I believe that benefits sanctions (penalties by the government for things like missing Jobcentre meetings) are completely out of control and putting those most in need at risk. A million people have been sanctioned in the last year – many of them are extremely vulnerable like my brother was.

I want to know how the Department of Work and Pensions can justify welfare sanctions that are driving people to foodbanks and leading to starvation and death. The DWP were aware of my brother’s  diabetes and insulin dependency, and, if as they say, they followed procedures and no errors were made, then why did my brother die?

Questions need to be asked of how Iain Duncan Smith is justifying benefit sanctions. What is the full impact of these sanctions? Are they working or simply putting the vulnerable further at risk?

I don’t want anybody else to die like this. 

Please sign my petition for a full independent inquiry into the DWP’s sanctions regime.

Sign the petition: save our Freedom of Information

The UK government is running a secretive unit inside Michael Gove’s Cabinet Office that’s accused of ‘blacklisting’ journalists and hiding ‘sensitive’ information from the public. Experts say they’re breaking the law – and it’s an assault on our right to know what our government is doing.

We’re not going to let it stand. We’re launching a legal battle – but we also need a huge public outcry, showing that thousands back our call for transparency. Will you add your name?

Who is bankrolling Britain's democracy? Which groups shape the stories we see in the press; which voices are silenced, and why? Sign up here to find out.

Comments

We encourage anyone to comment, please consult the oD commenting guidelines if you have any questions.
Audio available Bookmark Check Language Close Comments Download Facebook Link Email Newsletter Newsletter Play Print Share Twitter Youtube Search Instagram WhatsApp yourData