The unfolding government scandal that The Andrew Marr Show ‘forgot’ to mention today

Support us and go ad-free

The May government is in trouble this week. An open fight with Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon over a second independence referendum, the election expenses scandal heating up, no plan for Brexit, and her former Chancellor (and leadership foe) taking up editorship of The Evening Standard. Which may explain why The Andrew Marr Show forgot to mention the scandal that would, in a just world, bring down her government.

The DWP ‘Kill Yourself’ scandal

As The Canary‘s John Shafthauer writes:

On 28 February, The Canary reported the case of a woman who claimed an assessor working on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) asked her why she hadn’t killed herself yet.

Since we published that report, several people have approached us claiming the same thing happened to them. In this follow-up, we are publishing several of their testimonies. We have also spoken to Atos, the company which carries out assessments for the DWP. And in a separate report, we have discussed these claims with the President of the British Psychological Society, Peter Kinderman.

You can read the full testimonies here. And below is an example of what chronically sick and disabled people face in their DWP assessments:

I was at my ESA assessment in Poole, Dorset, summer 2016. I was suffering from suicidal depression and cluster headache (aka suicide headache). The interview was on the third floor. I opened the window to alleviate headache symptoms and he started making jump jokes and asking why I didn’t? In front of my social worker.

She wanted me to make a complaint but my mental health couldn’t take more conflict. I had gassed myself in a tent only 8 weeks previously.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

And another:

I was asked if I’d thought about killing myself and then asked how I would do it. That was PIP. Have brain injury, constant anxiety attacks, and my meds for depression were increased today by doc. Didn’t score a single point. Nothing awarded. Have an ESA one to get through one week today. Absolutely dreading it.

Each testimony is the true story of a human being, hounded while at their most vulnerable. And by the very people who should be supporting them into care, treatment, or work.

The reality of welfare cuts

The government’s own statistics show that between 2010 and 2011 10,600 sick and disabled people died within six weeks of their work capability assessments by Atos and the DWP.  As this horrific figure of more than one person every hour is almost too large to conceive, here are some names among that number.

Linda Wootton, 49, was on 10 different types of medication each 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 in 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 13-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 the DWP after an Atos assessment and forced to enter a lengthy, bureaucratic process to appeal the decision – during which his benefits were 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.

Enough is enough

The government quickly stopped counting the number of people dying while undergoing work capability assessments, but as the project only accelerated – we can safely assume that things have at the least remained the same. At the rate at which people are dying, these three represent the death toll in only the last three hours. This is not the occasional poor decision. This is a Linda, a Brian, or a Colin – every hour, all day, every day, dying because this system is designed to throw people out of the social security system. Whether they need it or not.

Get Involved!

– If you are having a mental health crisis or are feeling suicidal, contact The Samaritans by calling 116 123.

– Support Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC).

– Sign the petition to stop cuts to disabled people’s benefits.

– Write to your MP asking them to take action on poverty and inequality.

– Find out when a protest against austerity is happening near you.

– Watch the trailer for I, Daniel Blake.

Featured image via Screengrab

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed