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The victim of a broken system

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The DWP system is often punitive, writes Ian Peate The system is in dire need of being replaced, not meddled with or tweaked, says Ian Peate

A system can be defined as a set of things that work together as integrated parts of a mechanism or an interconnecting network; a complex whole, a set of principles or procedures according to which something is done; an organised scheme or method.

Mr Errol Graham, 57 years of age is dead. He starved to death, an absolute human catastrophe that has occurred in 21st century Britain. When Mr Graham was found in June 2018, by the bailiffs who had broken into his council flat with the intention of evicting him, he weighed only four-and-a-half stone. At the inquest into his death it was found that his loss of income was likely to have 'caused huge distress', it caused his death. His loss of income came after the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) reviewed his case. After his case was reviewed Mr Graham was rarely seen. He missed a number of GP appointments and refused approaches from other health and care agencies.

It was alleged that Mr Graham ignored contact from the DWP and in August 2017 his employment and support allowance was stopped. This in tandem, also affected his housing benefit, which finished on 10 October 2017. This man was destitute – destitute, needy and penniless.

When police officers checked, there was no food in the property, apart from a couple of tins of fish in the cupboard which were five years out of date. The officer reported that there were no signs of injury but he "looked very thin".

With a sudden loss of all income and the fear of eviction that ensued must have caused Mr Gardner significant distress and worry along with much financial hardship said the Coroner. The stress of all of this was devastating, having an effect on his physical and mental health, how could he, how could anyone recover from these threats? He didn’t, he died. He died because the system was not fit for purpose, not him - the system. The system is in dire need of being replaced, not meddled with or tweaked, you cannot put a sticking plaster over a grade 4 pressure ulcer and hope that it will heal.

The DWP have been unfair, punitive and have caused devastation not only for Mr Gardner but for many many other people. After Mr Graham's case was raised in Parliament this week, the DWP have said it was establishing a serious case panel to review its work - and not a minute too soon.

Mr Errol Graham was me, you, my brother, my father, my friend, my lover, my fellow human being there is a man dead as result of starvation, the medical cause of his death was recorded as starvation. No money, no hope, no support, no food = death, for those in need this is a lose-lose situation. We live in a society that needs to learn to care again.

Ian Peate, Professor of Nursing and Head of School of Health Studies, Gibraltar

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