As 2013 draws to a close, another victim of the Atos work capability assessment has been revealed as South Staffordshire Coroner, Andrew Haigh states “A major factor in his death was that his benefits had been greatly reduced leaving him almost destitute.”
Haigh is referring to the unfortunate suicide of Tim Salter, 53, who took his own life on 25th September this year after a work capability assessment conducted by Atos found him fit for work even though he was agoraphobic and had failing eyesight.
After having his benefits severely cut, Mr Slater fell into rent arrears and was due to be evicted from his home on 27th September – two days after he hung himself in the hallway of his home.
Mr Slater’s sister, Linda Cooksey, told the Daily Mirror how Mr Slater’s assessment was carried out by a physiotherapist who had no experience of mental health issues or knowledge of the effects of his blindness.
Linda described how the family had no knowledge of Mr Slater’s dire situation until after his death. She said the family discovered that there was no food in the house, and an eviction letter from South Staffordshire Housing Association was in the bin.
She added: “Stopping his benefits sent him over the edge. When his small savings ran out he got in trouble with his rent, and his £30 disability allowance a week just wasn’t enough.
“Tim ran out of money. He was a proud man and never let on to anybody. It’s so sad. I want everyone to know what this government is doing to vulnerable people on benefits.
“He had a certificate to say he was blind. When we got into his house there was no food, he practically starved in the last weeks.”
Mr Slater had tried to commit suicide in 1989 after losing his job, which resulted in damage to his eyes. He was registered partially blind in 1994.
Despite his eyesight and mental health issues, Mr Slater was still found fit for work by Atos.
The family have written to David Cameron about Mr Slater’s treatment at the hands of Atos.
The housing association insisted there was help available for people struggling to pay rent, and the response from the Department for Work and Pensions was that he had a right to appeal the decision – not exactly a caring approach when it is their system who is responsible for unnecessary and cruel impositions on vulnerable people.
The hard fact is that many people with mental health problems are not receiving the support they need to live in the community. Constant cuts to mental health services mean that staff are struggling to provide any support to people who are not in immediate need, with many having ridiculous workloads to juggle – that is the reality.
To expect someone with mental health problems to be able to look after themselves, let alone engage in a harsh bureaucratic system, is ridiculous. Accessing proper support and trying to sort out benefits – let alone appeal – is a massive hurdle for people who have enough trouble surviving from day to day while trying to cope with the debilitating effects of their mental health.
It seems that Atos and the DWP have no concept (or interest) in understanding that many people experiencing mental health problems are unable to process information (let alone access support services) in the same way that the general population may take for granted. People with mental health problems generally function at a very different level and need support to engage with the demands of society.
For many people with mental health problems just getting through another day is a major achievement. This is not taken into account by those developing and implementing these draconian measures.
This may not be ‘politically correct’, but people with mental health problems are people in our society who do need extensive help to engage with society – help that is continually becoming less available and effective.
Until the government and Atos wake up to the situation then we can expect other very sad, unfortunate, and unnecessary deaths as a direct result of their fascist policies.
The way the government are treating vulnerable people is an absolute disgrace.
As for Duncan Smith, he will be rubbing his hands with satisfaction that another statistic is wiped off his welfare budget – because that is ALL he cares about.