A Scunthorpe man has received a 40% cut in benefits after he was diagnosed with cancer, leaving him in serious financial distress during his battle with a disease that killed his father and brother. To add insult the injury, the DWP told him that he could return to his previous level of benefits, provided he gave up treatment and complied with the Jobseeker’s programme.
The Tale of Pete Woodcock
The internet has been buzzing with outrage over the DWP’s treatment of Pete Woodcock, together with a disgraceful level of judgement that Mike Sivier highlights with his usual elegance over at Vox Political.
Pete has been unemployed for eight years, but volunteers 40 hours each week in his community. When he was diagnosed with cancer he needed to stop attending his jobs club and cut back on volunteering to accommodate his treatment and necessary respite. The DWP’s response was to slash his benefits by 40% as he moved from Jobseeker benefits, to sickness benefits. He told the Scunthorpe Telegraph:
“I have just lately been diagnosed with cancer. I’ve had numerous hospital visits on both sides of the Humber and because of my hospital visits been unable to attend job clubs. Hence I had to sign on sickness pay.”
“When a person has cancer the last thing a person needs to worry about is finances but I now have to look after my family, pay bills and finance my trips to hospitals on less than £100 per week.”
Here is a man who has found himself unable to gain paid employment, but who is clearly a contribution to his community – volunteering for more hours than some people are required to work, for the pittance of £140 a week. He is diagnosed with a terminal illness, and instead of support he receives another major concern to add to his list.
The knuckle-dragging level of emotional intelligence by the DWP is startling enough, but one line of the story in the Telegraph knocked the wind right out of me. Pete says:
“The DWP even told me that if I went back on to jobseekers and gave up my treatment I could go back on to £140 per week to live on.”
I’m going to give you a moment to read that line again. Now again. Now let it sink in.
If he gives up his cancer treatment and continues attending jobs club…resulting in his almost certain death…he can have £140 week. This is the kind of bureaucratic evil for which this government is becoming synonymous.
The Tragedy of ‘Help to Work’
The government insists its work programmes are all about human dignity, when in reality they are about stripping people of their dignity, their self-respect and any lingering concept of the social contract. Remember the social contract? This government (and New Labour before it, in its own quiet way) is tearing it up and throwing it in the faces of those who rely on it most.
Here are some of the people I am talking about.
Linda Wootton, 49, was on 10 medications a day after a double lung and heart transplant. She was weak and suffered regular bouts of blackouts. She was put through the Atos Work Capability Assessment and as she lay in a hospital bed dying, she received confirmation she was ‘fit to work’. She died just nine days later. Her husband Peter said:
“I sat there and listened to my wife drown in her own bodily fluids. It took half an hour for her to die; a woman who is apparently fit for work”.
Brian McArdle, 57, had been left paralysed down one side, blind in one eye, unable to speak properly and barely able to eat and dress himself after a stroke on Boxing Day 2011. Despite this, he was deemed ‘fit to work’ by Atos. He died of a heart attack the day after his benefit payments were stopped. His thirteen year old son Kieran told the Daily Record:
“Even though my dad had another stroke just days before his assessment, he was determined to go…He tried his best to walk and talk because he was a very proud man, but even an idiot could have seen my dad wasn’t fit for work.
Colin Traynor, 29, suffered from epilepsy. He was deemed ‘fit for work’ by Atos and forced to enter a lengthy, bureaucratic process to appeal the decision – during which his benefits would be frozen. He did not live to see the result of his appeal. Five weeks after his death, his family received the news that his appeal was successful. Too late for Colin. His father Ray said:
“I firmly believe – 100% believe – that the system this government introduced has killed my son.”