UK couple driven to suicide by poverty and neglect

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12 years 5 months ago #29601 by 3scoremiles10
By Robert Stevens
15 November 2011


Last week, the bodies of Mark and Helen Mullins were discovered in their home in the small market town of Bedworth, Warwickshire. The married couple had made a suicide pact. They were found lying together side by side.
They may have died up to three weeks before their bodies were discovered.
When the couple died, they were living in a wretched and appalling state. They had been living on £57.50 a week for the last 18 months. This tiny sum, just £4.10 each per day, was the unemployment benefit that was claimed by Mark.
For months, the couple had been unable to afford food or heating and did not have the means to buy basic household items.
Helen suffered from learning difficulties, and last year, social services took her 12-year-old daughter away from her.
It has been reported that Helen had her Child Benefits stopped, but was unable to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance, as she was not deemed fit to work. She was then informed that she also did not qualify for incapacity benefit, due to her not being officially diagnosed with a medical condition.
Mark had found life hard since leaving the army and had been unable to find regular work. He was Helen’s full-time carer but he was unable to claim Carer’s Allowance (£53.10 a week), as he was told he was ineligible until she had been diagnosed with a disorder.
In December of last year, Mark and Helen, who had recently married, appeared in a short documentary about people living below the poverty line in Warwickshire.

Mark gave an interview to the Salvation Army, whom the couple relied on for food parcels. He detailed their daily struggle for existence. They were interviewed at a soup kitchen in Coventry, where they came each Sunday for a “soup and food handout”. Unable to afford travel costs, the couple had to walk the 12-mile round trip. Mark told the interviewer at the time that they had been doing this for nearly a year.
He said that social services had taken Helen’s youngest daughter away from her, “because she was looking after Helen and doing everything for her”.
“My Helen is learning disabled, but it took her a very long time to get any kind of benefits or social security,” he said. “The job centre decided that she couldn’t sign on because she had no brain function, no numeracy, literacy skill, any mobile abilities. But the Incapacity [Benefit] and disability people wouldn’t recognise her until she had been fully diagnosed. We are caught in Catch-22 situation. We couldn’t sign on the dole. Couldn’t get the Incapacity established. Couldn’t get the disability established, so basically we are living on very little, hand to mouth.”
They could no longer afford food, he added, saying, “We’ve basically survived on a lot of your food handouts. We live in the one room of our property. Obviously we can’t afford all this heating in minus 10 and 15. We can’t afford to run the heating…. The food we gather here we basically put into a big pot and I keep one broth going continuously because your household bags gives us lots of fruit and veg, potatoes and there’s a lot of bread here. And we really have from week to week at times survived on what you have given us.”
They had to put the food parcels they got from the soup kitchen “out in the shed, because it’s cooler in the shed. We don’t have a fridge or a freezer. We bring it [the food] in piecemeal and add to the big broth pot as we go along.”
Commenting on their inability to claim the benefits they were entitled to, Mark said, “I think the system is very unkind. We have lost count of how many appeals we have had. We’ve had to fight tooth and nail every step of the way to get benefits.
“They have no problem in suspending benefits. It’s not an issue for them. They just put a tick in a box and a stroke across a piece of paper and they alter your lives, which is fundamentally unfair. You have those who have the power to do this to you and those of us who don’t have the power to resist it.”
One neighbour who knew Mark and Helen told the Daily Mail, “The authorities turned their back on them. They obviously couldn’t face another freezing winter and felt they had no other choice but to kill themselves.”
The denial of social benefits and assistance to the Mullins and thousands of people in similar situations is not the result of bureaucratic oversight, but a systematic policy to drive millions of people off benefits under conditions of already escalating levels of unemployment nationally.
Hundreds of thousands of people are to be removed from benefits, including Incapacity Benefit. In order to carry this out, over the next five years, 500 doctors will carry out up to 10,000 assessments each week of people who are on Incapacity Benefit. Using the pretext of transferring those incapable of work onto the new Employment Support Allowance (ESA), claimants will be driven off sickness benefit.
Fully aware of the social consequences of more than £100 billion in public spending cuts, it was revealed earlier this year that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has issued official guidance on how to deal with a claimant who threatens suicide. The DWP has also instituted policies in which job centre staff are given targets of three people a week to refer for sanctions, through which benefits are removed for up to six months.
If, as is almost certainly the case, Mark and Helen did commit suicide in despair at the situation they found themselves in, they are only the latest causalities of the economic and social crisis that is reaping a terrible human cost.
In February, the Guardian reported the case of a man protesting against disability benefits cuts. He explained that his uncle, who had severe mental health problems, committed suicide after work capability assessment tests gave him zero points and found him fit to work. After appealing the decision and winning his case, he was called in for another assessment. Again he scored zero points and was told he did not qualify for disability benefits. He committed suicide a few days before another tribunal date was set to hear yet another appeal.
This situation is set to worsen. Figures released this week reveal, according to the Independent, that “after falling for years, the suicide rate began increasing as the credit crunch hit Britain.”
It reported, “The number of people committing suicide rose by 329 to 5,706 in 2008—the first increase since 1998.”
Following the meltdown of the global economy in 2008, David Cameron, before becoming prime minister, stated that Britain had now entered “the age of austerity”. In the aftermath of the crash, billions have been slashed in social spending, first by the previous Labour government and from May last year by the incoming Conservative/Liberal Democrat government.
These policies have resulted in millions of people being deprived of decent paying jobs and vital social services. Like Helen, many thousands have been denied access to basic social benefits.
In the face of this, Warwickshire Police have gone on record to insist that the deaths are “unexplained”. Detective Inspector Bob Jamieson stated that he was aware of reports that the couple lived in poverty and that this may have contributed to their death, but flatly denied this. “Our inquiries so far have revealed that this was not the case and that the lack of finances was not an issue in their lives, nor was the alleged lack of any social care support an apparent factor either,” he claimed without substantiation.
The deaths have barely been reported in the national media. Aside from Channel 4 News, a few brief articles have appeared in the national press and two articles in the local Coventry Telegraph. The nominally liberal Guardian and Independent have not reported the tragedy.

Source
www.wsws.org/articles/2011/nov2011/suic-n15.shtml

See also
www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-coventry-warwickshire-15645206
www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/8878543/...eless-situation.html
www.coventrytelegraph.net/news/coventry-...side-92746-29739580/
www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2059238...suicide-poverty.html
www.mirror.co.uk/mobile/news-opinion/201...-to-115875-23552880/

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If true as reported, this is utterly horrifying, and I feel is relevant what with certain political parties discussing welfare reform here.

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12 years 5 months ago #401506 by Stu_R
It is horrifying :(
And you are correct to in that its about to start here to with the propossed welfare policy of one party :(

5 retired Greyhounds ( Bridgette , Lilly, GoGo,Sam and now Lenny) 15 friendly sheep all of whom are named and come when you call them :) , 2 goats, Mollie and Eee Bee :
Olive trees , .. old bugger doing the best he can with no money or land :)

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12 years 5 months ago #401514 by DiDi
Certainly some newly familiar phrases in that article. Scary. I have no problem with the Nats drive to get people off benefits who are capable of working (assuming there is work to do!) but if they start attacking people with disabilities (mental or physical) I would hope that the New Zealand public would start screaming from the roof tops.

RIP Mark and Helen

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12 years 5 months ago #401521 by kai
Some of the facts do not ring true in that article, although she may not have been eligible for sickness benefit, she would have still been eligible for income support and they would also have been able to get housing benefit.

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12 years 5 months ago #401539 by kate
Social Darwinism - and NZ is heading down the same path...

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12 years 5 months ago #401543 by Mich
I agree that, if true, this is extremely sad. The whole issue of government financial support is a hot potato and no-one will ever agree on it. Leaving aside the social policies of the various parties, I'm left wondering what has become of our ability to take care of each other? Have we reached such a point where we consider only the government of the day is responsible for us, and that we have no personal compassion or responsibility for others? Sometimes it almost seems that we're happy to give money and help towards a major catastrophe (or in a more cynical vein, perhaps, give to charities via Lotto, i.e., hoping to benefit ourselves) but ignore the daily needs of those closest to us.

I certainly hope the neighbour quoted in the above article was supporting this couple somehow.
Cheers, Mich.

Good exercise for the heart is to bend down and help someone up. Anon.

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12 years 5 months ago #401544 by kindajojo
Well said Mich, it is sad that the couple were reduced to suicide however its seems in all these cases, and the murder of the innocent children in NZ the first comment is ...........Its the governments fault.
The welfare state has reduced the feeling that we are responisilbe for eachother because the expectation is that the government will pay, however you cant solve probelms by just throwing more money at it and there is not an endless supply of cash

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12 years 5 months ago #401545 by Mich
Couldn't agree with you more Kindajojo. Can you imagine a community where everyone knew each other, looked after each other's children, laughed, worked, played and cried together, fed each other from surplus food grown, looked after their elderly and ill etc? That's the sort of place I'd love to live in. I remember it being a lot more like that when I was growing up than it is today. We've lost something along the way, I think. I'm reminded of the biblical saying, popularised by John F Kennedy: To whom much is given, much is required (or words to that effect). Richness doesn't always come from having money.
Cheers, Mich.

Good exercise for the heart is to bend down and help someone up. Anon.

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12 years 5 months ago #401553 by Cinsara
NZ cannot afford to be the welfare state we have enjoyed in the past therefore the Govt needs to work smarter not harder. Smarter means identifying those who don't need social assistance and kick them to the curb. Consequently there would be the resourses to help genuine people like this couple appear to need. If anyone has an acceptable way of selecting these people please post here.

I agree with Kai that something seems amiss with the story, the day the media writes a completely factual unbiased article without a hidden agenda is the day the moon turns into cheese.

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12 years 5 months ago #401561 by Anne
When I read it, I wondered what the people at the salvation army were doing to help and support the couple, apart from putting together food parcels. If they were such regular visitors, why did it take "up to three weeks" for their bodies to be found? Yes, I realise that the SA is also a charitable organisation, but if any group had seen this couple every week, without fail, on the week that they didn't turn up, alarm bells should have rung. Didn't SA have some one who could have helped them see a Dr and start the process of diagnosis? They same thing happens here in NZ - in order to qualify for allowances or services for people with ID, diagnosis has to have been made before the age of 18 years. I have worked with people in their 50s who clearly have an ID, but have not had a "formal" diagnosis (because that wasn't needed then, they were integrated into home and community and everyone helped). It can be a battle, but it is possible to have the diagnosis made.

I think its all an indication of our collective abrogation of responsiblity. Someone else will do it. Someone else should do it. Why should I do it?

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12 years 5 months ago #401594 by DiDi
I noted that it was a Socialist website and presume that some will have turned off and not bothered to read the article. Yes - I too - not a Socialist - was thinking this makes no sense and was struggling to keep reading. However, a couple of posters have made points that I think are real.

In the late 70's early 80's everything was shared to a degree where I lived - LSB. You cut and bale my hay; help yourself to my orchard. Did I feel the need to go and check how many apples they picked and took - no way!

Each person you had help you, and you in reverse, had their own idea about what their "job" was worth and you were not weak or stupid to grant unlimited access to those people to put their own price (let's say apples) on what they had done for you. It damn well worked! No one abused the "system" and we all had an awesome relationship. My payback was pea straw (and tractor use to do things I couldn't) mainly in developing gardens and even if it was last seasons pea straw and no use to the "giver" it was worth heaps to me.

Somehow we have become slaves to the almighty dollar and the negative news we receive that basically says not to trust anyone and that is rubbish. I am also well aware of how many elderly people (80+) are in my mother's retirement village (the pay for yourself previously Government funded rest homes without subsidy) that no one visits. It can take up to two days to discover someone is dead. How disgusting is that folk - the almighty dollar means minimal staff and no checks when you don't turn up for meals etc. Disgusting abuse of the elderly and in the originating story - disgusting abuse of core human values that don't seem to count any more.

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12 years 5 months ago #401595 by mikethebike
Well i for one am bloody sick to the stomach this could very easily happen here when will NZrs see that the idea that the government put out that dole scroungers and sickness benefit scroungers are at fault for our financial woes is complete bull shit! how is it that the national party can happily hand out tax cuts for the rich when kids here in CHB are still going to school with out food or shoes and single parents are getting their benefit cut as soon as their child turns six because they then have to get a job, when half the bloody town are unemployed due to the meatworks closing and the sheep market closed, and the local health board has a staff recruitment freeze to save money! and all that when having increased taxes by putting gst on every bloody thing and food bills have doubled in four years and power the same and of course fuel whereas wages and benefits have risen by all of about 4% you should really try living on benefits for any length of time and you would soon see how bloody hard it is!! for your information i don't live on benefits but most of my patients do and i can tell you its not out of choice!

Mike and Suzi living the lifestyle in sunny central hawkes bay, Still loads of animals oh and we still have our Zebra truck.

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12 years 5 months ago #401596 by kate
Hear, hear Mike :D

Di, the article was also reported by the Telegraph, the most right-wing British newspaper there is...

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12 years 5 months ago #401609 by DiDi
Thanks Kate. I did read through it and have also listened to the Telegraph article and so I am not disputing this in any way. You and others on this site will have clearly gleaned that after 30 years membership, I am no longer a National supporter for reasons such as this. The "front" language is so familiar with the direction that has happened in this instance that I too am very very afraid about the direction that they are heading in. I know who I won't be voting for!

Guess that was the basis of what I was rambling on about in my earlier thread. If we can't care and look after the most vulnerable in our world then what the hell have we done wrong? At least I can vouch that my children are caring and involved people so I can only hope that they will continue to touch the lives of their peers and make them think and care about others.

PS - Thanks Mike. Brilliantly said.

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12 years 5 months ago #401617 by Cinsara

mikethebike;396952 wrote: Well i for one am bloody sick to the stomach this could very easily happen here when will NZrs - you should really try living on benefits for any length of time and you would soon see how bloody hard it is!! for your information i don't live on benefits but most of my patients do and i can tell you its not out of choice!

I am equally sick but how do you propose the Govt fixes it? Taking into account that I (for example) work bloody hard for my salary and struggle to make ends meet just like beneficiaries and cannot afford to sacrifice any more to the countries coffers, I don't want my taxes to incease but neither do I want the country to get deeper in debt to continually pay for our social concience. If you have a solution that will keep everyone happy I would love to hear it. I love the way it used to be as Didi states, but sadly these days it is too easy to turn a blind eye while blaming everybody else when things turn to custurd. The Govt doesn't live next door to these people, we do, it is our fault and sadly a sign of the times.
Mtb I'm sure your patients don't choose to be on the benefit but there are 2 sides to the bene debate...the very rich little town where I work is chocka block full of single parents (of school age children) and young men and women on the dole who are more than capable of working but their arguement is "why should I", I don't care if there is one part time job available every 100 days, they're not going to find it if they aren't out there looking. These are the ones ruining it for the truely needy cases and it has nothing to do with what political party is in power, it is our fault, we accept this behaviour while complaining and blaming the system when sad things like this happen.
I live in a town where there are zero jobs so I travel, and have traveled an hour and a half each way when necessary to work, if there are no jobs in your area, you travel until you find one IMO, not put it in the too hard basket and blame the system.

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