A group who fights for disabled people’s rights; Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) have called for the immediate halting of health assessments for the benefits Personal Independence Payment (PIP), and Employment and Support Allowance. Their call comes after a man died inside a jobcentre having previously being found; “Fit For Work”.
Unfortunately we have become all to accustomed to horror stories related to UK benefits, especially when it comes to sick and disabled people.
However, the latest story has caused a huge backlash against The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), and more importantly, the private companies who carry out disabled people’s health assessments for PIP and ESA.
Death Causes Uproar
The 65-year-old, who has not been named, has died as he sat in the waiting area of Llanelli Job Centre Plus in Carmarthenshire, Wales.
It is reported that while waiting for an appointment regarding his Jobseekers Allowance, the man became unwell and collapsed. Despite the best efforts of those around, who performed CPR, the man was pronounced dead when the Ambulance arrived.
A witness to the incident told the media;
“I didn’t know him myself, but the man who was sat next to me told me that he had grown up with the guy.
“The man next to me told me that the poorly guy had diabetes and had been declared fit for work by the job centre earlier in the year but he was obviously ill.
“The ambulance came but he sadly died and they had to take his body out of the job centre, it was awful.”
All the DWP spokesman was willing to say when asked for comment was:
“Our thoughts and those of the staff at Llanelli Jobcentre are with the family and friends at this time.”
Group Demands Action
Following the shocking news, Disabled Activist group; Disabled People Against Cuts, better known as DPAC have called for an immediate halt to the controversy stricken health assessments carried out by private companies such as Capita, Maximus and Atos.
The group had previously had results after their Sheffield Branch ran the very successful campaign against the Misleading and Incorrect DWP advertising campaign that ran in the Metro Free Newspaper.
DPAC have released a statement calling for urgent action to prevent further deaths. A spokesperson for the group told me;
“We are beyond heartbroken at the devastating news of the as yet unnamed man who has lost his life in such awful circumstances. There are no words to express our shock, our anger and our collective grief.
“We have spent nearly a decade fighting the system in place that is without any gentler way of putting it causing the unnecessary suffering and deaths of many poorly, sick and disabled people.
“The saddest and most angering thing is that this man has not died in unpreventable circumstances.
“Far from it.
“He has died in the job centre because he was found fit for work when he was not. He has died because somebody lied about his fitness levels and abilities.
“He was not given the support that his individual needs deserved. He was let down by the system that was supposed to support him, and by the shameless people who work within it.
“We demand that the Department of Work and Pensions to impose an immediate ban on PIP /ESA assessments in light of this tragic incident, and to open an investigation in to the assessment centre in question.
“There must be no more deaths due to the inaccurate reports and lies from ATOS/Capita assessors.
“We condemn the actions of the assessment companies and complicit assessors in the strongest possible terms.
“The only way to end this suffering is to end this process altogether.
“Our love and most heartfelt sympathies are with the family and friends of this victim at this difficult time.
“To Therese Coffey and the DWP, let his death not be in vein.
“This shouldn’t have happened and must NEVER happen again.
“May he Rest In Power.”
DWP Under Pressure to Act
As I previously reported, the companies who carry out Personal Independence Payment Assessments; Maximus and Atos had their contracts extended at a cost of £600 million. This came as a shock as the companies had been consistently failing targets set by the DWP.
The latest incident will put the DWP under further pressure to overhaul the system that is meant to look after the most vulnerable and their needs.
The government previously promised to look into improving the system and has even proposed combining assessments. However, with the General Election campaign underway, this has fallen by the wayside.
Needless to say, something needs to change soon, but just who will be responsible won’t be known until December 13th.
DPAC have started an online campaign to raise awareness of the issue. You can find it on all social media platforms by searching; “#NoMorePIPdeaths”