The Latest Victim.

According to his sister, Cathie Wood, Mark Wood was a "sweet and gentle person." The only thing was, Mark suffered from a number of complex mental health problems. For most of his life these had remained undiagnosed, but in his late 20s he was said to have both Asperger Syndrome and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. These problems made it impossible for Mark to work. Indeed, he was sacked from his first job because his employer said that he was "unable to follow instructions", and his doctor, Nicholas Ward, said in a letter to the jobcentre, that Mark was "extremely unwell and not fit for any work whatsoever."
However, as many of you will know, those who receive sickness benefits are currently being reassessed to see if they are indeed unfit to work. So Mark, as is the case with so many others like him, had to go through the process of being reassessed for his benefits, a process being carried out by the multinational company, Atos. Despite the overwhelming evidence that he was not fit to work, after only one half hour interview at his home, Atos assessed his mental condition as "normal."
What followed seems to beggar belief. Both Mark's Employment and Support Allowance and Housing Benefit were stopped, leaving him only a remaining £40 a week to live on, which I presume came from his Disability Living Allowance. The resulting stress of this, according to his doctor, made his anxiety disorder and obsessional traits worse. In such a state, Mark was unable to engage with the jobcentre or any other agencies which may have provided help. He developed an eating disorder and cognitive behavioural problems, and sadly, tragically, he passed away in August of last year, four months after his benefits were stopped. At the time of his death he weighed only 5 stones 8 lbs.
One can not put into words just how tragic this is, nor can one contain one's anger at a government which chooses to continue to doggedly victimise the already vulnerable. Mark's sister herself perhaps said it best, commenting: "I would like Ian Duncan Smith to stop talking about this as a moral crusade, and admit that this whole process of reassessing people for their benefits is a cost-cutting measure. I want David Cameron to acknowledge the personal costs of this flawed system. This is not just someone being inconvenienced - this is a death."
Perhaps not surprisingly, the response of both Atos and the DWP to the whole affair seemed not only inadequate, but downright insulting. An Atos spokeswoman said: "Our thoughts are with the family of Mr. Wood at this difficult time." A DWP spokesman 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. Our sympathy goes out to the family of Mr. Wood."
To me, such responses show a lack of understanding of the gravity of what has happened and a lack of sympathy so profound that it borders almost on the psychopathic. Mark Wood's vicar said that he was a man of "dignity and integrity." One wonders what happened to the "dignity and integrity" of those who it would appear are partially responsible for his death.            


Rum-Punch Drunk said…
What a sad story. I just can't understand how someone could have so much medical evidence and still be denied sickness benefits. How could they get such a company to assess him, especially if they are not medically trained and despite the fact that he was already assessed by medical professionals? I am baffled right now.
Why is it that those who are in need are the ones who are being denied the help?

My thoughts and prayers are with his family. And my concerns are with the people who are being assessed as I write this comment.
David said…
Hi Rum-Punch Drunk,
Thank you for your thoughts and clear concern about the issues raised by my post.
Unfortunately, I don't think this would be the first time that someone has been assessed as fit to work when clearly they are not. Only the other day I read of someone who had been told to carry out "intense work-related activity" while they were still in a coma!
More fortunately, though, Atos, the company carrying out the reassessments, have recently withdrawn from doing so. This is at least a little good news, although I'm sure someone will be more than willing to fill the vacant role considering all the money involved. Still, we live in the hope that there will be change soon.
Thanks for your comment.
Very Best Wishes,
Thank you. Love love, Andrew. Bye.

Popular Posts