Who will be held accountable for the deaths of claimants whose support has been cut off, asks
Jean Rowe, while
Martin Harrison fears that tragic cases are bound to be repeated unless something changes
Debbie Abrahams, the Labour MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, gave an anguished speech in parliament on 24 February at 11pm to a near-empty chamber, reading out the names of people who have died as a result of starvation, depression and financial distress brought about by the cancellation of their benefits.
Then I read a few days later about the unsent letter by Errol Graham, who starved to death, alone, aged 57, weighing less than 5 stone (‘Judge me fairly’: plea of man who died after benefits cut, 28 February).
We are a rich country. We don’t live in a war-torn country. We pay taxes to ensure that the most vulnerable in society have access to “benefits” as a social safety net.
Serious questions must be asked about accountability for Department for Work and Pensions systems that can leave claimants to die alone, where the first people to have knowledge of this death frequently are the bailiffs. But who can be held accountable in this government which appears to have raised non-accountability to a high art?
• Your publication of Errol Graham’s heartfelt plea, and his tragic and unnecessary death, moved me to anger and my wife to tears. It is a damning indictment of a universal support system that is currently devoid of human compassion and basic decency. It should never happen again. But I fear it will.
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