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Grieving Sister Of David Clapson Confronts Esther McVey

February 5, 2015

After yesterday’s inquiry into benefit sanctions. The New Statesman reports.

Esther McVey, the Employment Minister, was handed an image of David Clapson – the man found dead in his flat from diabetic ketoacidosis, two weeks after his benefits were suspended – following a select committee inquiry into benefits sanctions this afternoon.

In the emotional confrontation, Clapson’s younger sister, Gill Thomspon, presented the image to McVey and said: “A diabetic cannot wait two weeks.” A reference to the amount of time a Jobseeker’s Allowance claimant, when sanctioned, has to wait to receive a hardship payment.

When Thompson discovered her brother’s body in July 2013, she found his electricity had been cut off, meaning the fridge where he stored his insulin was no longer working. Speaking to the Guardian in 2014, Thompson said: “I don’t think anyone should die like that in this country, alone, hungry and penniless . . . They must know that sanctioning people with diabetes is very dangerous. I am upset with the system; they are treating everyone as statistics and numbers.”

During the committee hearing today, McVey and Chris Hayes, Labour Market and International Affairs director, were subjected to an intense grilling from the Labour MPs on the cross-party committee surrounding the adverse effects of sanctioning, targets by Job Centres and deaths related to cuts in benefits. The committee chair, Dame Anne Begg, said that in some circumstances sanctioning was leaving people “destitute”.

When asked by Labour MP, Debbie Abrahams, how many peer reviews the DWP has carried out following the death of a claimant, McVey conceded that the figure was 49. Although it’s worth pointing out that a Freedom of Information request by the Disability News Service found that the DWP had carried out “60 peer reviews following the death of a customer” since February 2012. McVey refused to comment on individual cases but said that none of the reviews had found a link between benefits sanctioning and the death of a claimant.

“I think you’re inflaming this,” McVey added. “We followed and looked at what we did, how best we worked in supporting the individuals . . . but we ensured that we followed all of our processes correctly.”

Tensions escalated during the hearing, and at one point the committee member Paul Maynard, a Tory MP, appeared distressed by the opposition’s questioning of McVey and threatened to leave the committee hearing.

Although sanctions have long had cross-party support, new regulations introduced in October 2012 mean that a claimant could be sanctioned for a longer period of time. Some have called this rigorous, while others have opted for the word punitive. The Labour MP, Glenda Jackson, was firmly of the view that it is punitive: she hounded the Employment Minister over the alleged use of targets in Job Centres across the country and citied evidence from the Public and Commercial Services Union.

But despite the mounting evidence – substantial amounts were officially submitted to the inquiry – McVey echoed previous statements issued by the DWP and said: “Categorically, there are no targets for benefits sanctions.”

Speaking to the New Statesman after the hearing, Abrahams said:

Once again Esther McVey has shown a stunning disregard for the mountain of evidence provided during this inquiry from individuals, academics and organisations who have seen first-hand, or worse experienced, the effect of this government’s inhumane approach to sanctioning, especially against vulnerable people.

I can’t imagine how it must have felt for people like Gill Thompson, who has battled so hard to get answers about her brother’s death, to have to listen to Esther McVey say support is there for vulnerable people who are sanctioned.

And, once again she point-blank refused my demand for a second, full, independent inquiry into sanctions. Anyone who’s been following this inquiry and heard the evidence will fully understand why the government will never allow a full inquiry. They have too much to hide and too much to lose.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. February 5, 2015 3:01 am

    Reblogged this on stewilko's Blog and commented:
    Again McVey showing her ignorance and Total disregard for disabled individuals. Moreover her elitist attitude for those whom she is supposed to represent. The words “evil”, “sociopath” and “psychopath” springs to mind. Hopefully come May 8th she will be looking for another job

  2. Sasson Hann permalink
    February 5, 2015 6:25 am

    I repeat again: what is the point of these committees if they have no power to elicit change? Why even bother pretending that they’re doing something about this and other emotive policies?

    These processes expose the fact that democracy and justice don’t exist in this country.

  3. February 5, 2015 6:55 am

    Reblogged this on lawrencerowntree.

  4. February 5, 2015 7:18 am

    Reblogged this on sdbast.

  5. February 5, 2015 9:27 am

    Reblogged this on Lindas Blog.

  6. February 5, 2015 3:29 pm

    Reblogged this on Britain Isn't Eating and commented:
    Ester Mcvile will be gone from the government this coming May, even if the Tories manage to win outright or form part of a Coalition again!

    There is no way any of her constituents will support her in the GE, and in fact there is a very active campaign against her winning,to punish her for her role in this heartless Tory led coalition and her extremely damaging roles of DWP ministers.

    Whilst throwing her out offers no consolation to any of the families of those that have died, it will go some way of offering hope to those still living under the disabled/sick/unemployed benefit schemes.

  7. gerry doe permalink
    April 2, 2015 8:52 am

    Some people will never realise just how much stories like this affect me. I began to realise JUST what McVey was like when I wrote to her (Min. for Dis.) about the rising number of deaths due to Welfare Reforms. In fact I wrote twice, and twice she ignored me. I live in fear of May 8th. (Selfishly not only for myself, but for) others too who could be at the mercy of this so called government for another 5 years What also worries me is that there are plenty of like-minded people who don’t want to see the Nasties back in power, but there’s an awful lot of ” I’m Alright Jack’s” out there who live their lives in a world where money is more important than the lives of their fellow humans.

    • Nick permalink
      April 2, 2015 12:41 pm

      it’s the likes of McVey that are the main ring leaders in all atrocities that take place world wide
      they all show the same mindset of complete disregard for the people of the world they support to serve hence all the wars and death that take place everywhere

      if we could rid the world of the likes of McVey and IDS and the way they think then the world would be at peace

  8. Timothy Greig permalink
    July 17, 2018 11:33 am

    What does it take for her to go?? all the lot of the tories wheels are falling off lying to their own faces and getting away with it as well.

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