Wracked with pain, and after eight years on morphine, Marie Lopez has finally chosen death over a life blighted by illness and cruel spending cuts.
This once vibrant businesswoman has spent her every last penny paying for her own care after social services left her to suffer in agony.
Now she is using her last £10,000 to buy an end to her ordeal at an assisted suicide clinic in Switzerland, even though she is not dying.
For decades Marie, 54, has battled Crohn’s disease , a crippling and incurable condition that attacks the digestive system. Then, almost 10 years ago, the 38 hours a week of social care that made her life bearable was cut back entirely, forcing Marie to fund it herself.
Now she has decided she can endure no more. And she blames Government cuts for her decision to die at the Lifecircle Clinic in Basel.
The former City analyst says: “I have not taken this decision lightly. I am ready to die to put an end to my misery. Crohn’s might not be terminal but, believe me, it kills at a slow pace.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, please contact the Samaritans on their free phone number 116 123
Tribunals had said the DWP should expand the reach of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) – but the government warned this would cost it £3.7bn
Panicking Tory ministers have rewritten the law to deny increased benefit payments to more than 150,000 people.
Two tribunals had ruled the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) should expand the reach of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) – which helps disabled people fund their living costs.
Tory Disabilities Minister Penny Mordaunt said her move would “make sure we are giving support to those who need it most” – and insisted no one who had already been claiming PIP would see payments drop.
But there was fury after she tightened the law without consulting the government’s own Social Security Advisory Committee.
Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Debbie Abrahams stormed: “Instead of listening to the court’s criticisms of PIP assessments and correcting these injustices, this government have instead decided to undermine the legal basis of the rulings.
Originally posted on The poor side of life: I’ll start today’s blog by describing the weather, because it certainly just about sums things up. Windy, raining and hostile. Certainly not favourable for holding our weekly demo. But still we soilder on. People need our support, it’s as simple as that.? I arrived at 10am, completely…
The Public Accounts Committee cites evidence that one-third of people who were claiming housing benefit lost their money when they were given a sanction
Housing benefit is being wrongly stripped from jobseekers accused of failing to look for work, MPs say – threatening them with eviction and homelessness.
The “appalling situation” is condemned by a Commons committee which has told the Department for Work and Pensions to investigate the blunder urgently.
Government rules say benefit claimants who are sanctioned can be docked jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) and employment and support allowance (ESA) – but not housing benefit, which they may need to keep their home.
In evidence to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Sir Robert Devereux, the DWP’s permanent secretary, said: “The sanction is applied to the JSA and not to the housing benefit.”
But a survey by the housing charity Crisis found that a staggering one-third of people who were claiming housing benefit lost their money when they were given a sanction.
Meg Hillier, the PAC’s Labour chair, said: “Suspending people’s benefit payments can lead them into debt, rent arrears and homelessness, which can undermine their efforts to find work.
“A third of people surveyed by the charity Crisis who were claiming housing benefit had this stopped in error because of a sanction – an appalling situation to be faced with.”
Investigation into benefits system comes amid mounting evidence that payment delays have left thousands facing eviction
MPs have launched an official inquiry into universal credit amid growing concerns that design flaws in the new benefits system are leaving thousands of low-income claimants facing eviction and reliant on food banks.
The Commons work and pensions committee said it was compelled to launch a full investigation after mounting evidence that built-in payment delays and administrative blockages were creating severe problems for claimants and landlords.
A Guardian investigation this month found widespread evidence that thousands of tenants on universal credit were running up rent arrears and debts because they could not manage the minimum 42-day wait for a first payment.
Landlords have also criticised the system, with private landlords warning that they will not let to universal credit claimants because of the high risk of rent arrears and problems navigating byzantine official bureaucracy.
Surveys by housing associations have found that up to nine in 10 tenants on universal credit either run up rent arrears or increase the level of pre-existing arrears because so few are equipped to cope with long waits without income.
Frank Field MP, chair of the work and pensions committee said: “Huge delays in people receiving payments from universal credit have resulted in claimants falling into debt and rent arrears, caused health problems and led to many having to rely on food banks.”
The inquiry will ratchet up the pressure on the Department for Work and Pensions to review the design of universal credit. It has played down the impact of the 42-day waiting time, arguing that its research carried out two years ago suggests arrears levels fall after three months once tenants get used to the new system.
But the former welfare minister Lord Freud admitted to MPs last month that at least a quarter of tenants on universal credit had run up rent arrears as a result, and he suggested that ministers should consider shortening waiting times for payment.
The MPs inquiry was announced on the same day that the universal credit full service was rolled out to a handful of new areas, including Poplar in east London and Warrington. The rollout is not due to be complete until September 2018.
Tough rules which see claimants punished for missing just one job centre appointment are inconsistent and have become a postcode lottery, the Public Accounts Committee found
Jobseekers have been forced onto the streets under the Tories ’ cruel benefit sanctions regime, a devastating report has warned.
Tough rules which see claimants punished for missing just one job centre appointment are inconsistent and have become a postcode lottery, the Public Accounts Committee found.
Committee chairwoman, Labour MP, Meg Hillier said: “Benefit sanctions have been used as a blunt instrument by Government. “Sanctions and exemptions are being applied inconsistently, with little understanding of why.”
Jobseekers can be slapped with sanctions which can see their handouts withdrawn for a variety of “offences”. They include turning down positions, missing appointments and failing to look for work.
A typical sanction lasts four weeks and means a Jobseeker’s Allowance claimant loses around £300. The benefit is worth up to £73.10 a week.
The Department for Work and Pensions imposed 400,000 sanctions on benefit claimants in 2015, the most recent statistic available.
In a joint response with other leading psychological bodies to a Government consultation the British Psychological Society has called for the suspension of the benefit sanctions system.
The Government should suspend its benefit sanctions system as it fails to get people back to work and damages their mental health, says the BPS and other leading UK psychological bodies.
The bodies highlight evidence that sanctions, or the threat of sanctions (benefit cuts following a claimant’s failure to comply with jobcentre conditions, e.g. missing an appointment with their work coach) can result in destitution, hardship, widespread anxiety and feelings of disempowerment.
The call came in a joint response to the Government’s consultation, ‘Improving Lives’, from the British Psychological Society, the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy, the British Psychoanalytic Council, the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies and the UK Council for Psychotherapy.
Findings from the National Audit Office show that there is limited evidence the sanctions system actually works, or is cost effective. The bodies argue that the Government needs to change focus from trying to make unemployment less attractive, to trying to make employment more attractive.
From Kate Belgrave’s blog:
Another short post on impossible situations:
Here’s a rent arrears demand recently received by a woman who lives in a Basildon flat with her three young children (the arrears have increased since she received this letter).
It appears these arrears have come about because of the recently-lowered benefit cap.
This woman’s benefits exceeded the Out of Greater London limit of £384.62 by about £100 a week. As a result, at the end of last year, her housing benefit was cut by about £100 a week from about £188 a week to to £87 a week (think the sums are correct, looking at the paperwork. Give me a shout if you think the totals need looking at. Maths problems with these things are not at all uncommon).
Basildon council recently gave this woman a discretionary housing payment of £20 a week to cover some of the rent shortfall. That helps a bit, but only a bit. She only gets the DHP for the short term, too. After that, she either finds the full whack each week, or moves house again (this time with a serious arrears history) and takes the kids out of school again (she was recently in temporary accommodation in another borough)… or she ultimately gets evicted, I guess:
From the Royal Society of Medicine
Researchers exploring why there has been a substantial increase in mortality in England and Wales in 2015 conclude that failures in the health and social care system linked to disinvestment are likely to be the main cause.
There were 30,000 excess deaths in 2015, representing the largest increase in deaths in the post-war period. The excess deaths, which included a large spike in January that year, were largely in the older population who are most dependent on health and social care.
Reporting their analysis in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, the researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, University of Oxford and Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, tested four possible explanations for the January 2015 spike in mortality.
After ruling out data errors, cold weather and flu as main causes for the spike, the researchers found that NHS performance data revealed clear evidence of health system failures. Almost all targets were missed including ambulance call-out times and A&E waiting times, despite unexceptional A&E attendances compared to the same month in previous years. Staff absence rates rose and more posts remained empty as staff had not been appointed.
Professor Martin McKee, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: “The impact of cuts resulting from the imposition of austerity on the NHS has been profound. Expenditure has failed to keep pace with demand and the situation has been exacerbated by dramatic reductions in the welfare budget of £16.7 billion and in social care spending.”
He added: “With an aging population, the NHS is ever more dependent on a well-functioning social care system. Yet social care has also faced severe cuts, with a 17% decrease in spending for older people since 2009, while the number of people aged 85 years and over has increased by 9%.”
“To maintain current levels of social care would require an extra £1.1 billion, which the government has refused.”
Professor McKee continued: “The possibility that the cuts to health and social care are implicated in almost 30,000 excess deaths is one that needs further exploration. Given the relentless nature of the cuts, and potential link to rising mortality, we ask why is the search for a cause not being pursued with more urgency?”
“Simply reorganising and consolidating existing urgent care systems or raising the ‘agility’ of the current A&E workforce capacity is unlikely to be sufficient to meet the challenges that high levels of admissions of frail elderly people and others who are vulnerable are likely to present this winter and in future winters.”
The researchers say that there are already worrying signs of an increase in mortality in 2016. Without urgent intervention, they say, there must be concern that this trend will continue.
Commenting on the analysis, Professor Danny Dorling, University of Oxford, added: “It may sound obvious that more elderly people will have died earlier as a result of government cut backs, but to date the number of deaths has not been estimated and the government have not admitted responsibility.”