The tragic deaths of a couple found lying side by side at their home in Bedworth have apparently confirmed the worst fears of disability campaigners about the impact of benefit cuts. Police are investigating the deaths of Mark and Helen Mullins which are at this stage being treated as “unexplained” but friends have spoken of the couple’s struggle to access the correct benefits.
Mark and Helen walked a ten mile round trip each week for food hand outs from a Coventry soup kitchen as they tried to cope with living on a very small income. Helen was judged ineligible for jobseekers allowance as she had no literacy or numeracy skills and her benefits were stopped 18 months ago. However without a proper diagnosis she could not access incapacity benefits and her husband, an army veteran, was not entitled to carer’s allowance. Helen’s young daughter had already been taken away from her to live with relatives as she was judged incapable of looking after her yet no support was put in place for her without first having to see a string of specialists to obtain a formal diagnosis. Meanwhile the couple had to live on Mark’s jobseekers allowance of just £57.50 per week. Without money for heating they were forced to live in just one room of their home and to keep food in plastic bags in the garden as they could not afford a fridge. Things became desperate when they became frightened that instead of receiving the support they needed, Helen would be sectioned and they would be separated.
Whilst it becomes ever harder for disabled people to access benefits, the media and government continue to encourage a perception of widespread benefit fraud and scroungers living off the state. Programmes such as the BBC’s “The Future State of Welfare” call for more stringent benefit testing while failing to mention that incapacity benefit fraud is just 0.3% of spending or the estimated 16 billion of benefits that go unclaimed each year. In a letter from Anne Begg, Chair of the Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee to Chris Grayling, Minister for Employment earlier this year, serious concerns were raised about the misuse of benefit claimant statistics and the government’s role in inciting media misrepresentation.
By creating a false impression of a dire need to restrict benefits, attention is focused away from the injustices and the terrible human cost which are the products of so-called welfare reform. The drastic cuts to social care funding and the loss of independent advocacy services previously provided by Warwickshire and Coventry Council for Disabled People before Warwickshire County Council withdrew their funding no doubt contributed to the tragic deaths of Mark and Helen Mullins. Such are the realities of cutbacks. In honour of those who have been driven to their deaths by oppressive government policy we must speak out and make sure the truth rather than insidious propaganda is heard.
For full story about Mark and Helen Mullins: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2059238/Army-veteran-Mark-Mullins-wife-Helen-driven-suicide-poverty.html;
For more information about reactions to the BBC documentary ‘The Future State of Welfare’: http://www.candocango.com/anger-and-shock-over-bbcs-offensive-welfare-documentary/ News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com
For more information on the Select Committee letter: