Labour MP Bill Esterson meets Formby father of man who died two

Cliff Scott holding a photo of son Mark, with Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson.
The Formby father of a musician who died of pneumonia just two months after the Department of Work and Pensions withdrew his incapacity benefit said vulnerable people were being abandoned because of government-driven targets.

Former St Luke's Junior and Range High School pupil Mark Scott died on January 26 in his Southport flat.

The 47 year old suffered from anxiety-related illnesses, had been diagnosed epileptic and had been battling alcoholism.

Last November, like thousands of other claimants, Mark was called in for a Work Capability Assessment. After the meeting Mark's benefits were cut. He was dead within two months.

Speaking from his Formby home, 74-year-old dad Cliff, said Mark had been living with anxiety-related conditions all his life. He said the Department for Work and Pensions' decision to cut Mark's benefits had led to his son's death.

Cliff said: "From babyhood, we noticed that Mark would often be unsettled and sometimes panic stricken. Medical experts told us that this was because during labour Mark had been deprived of oxygen. It was a condition called hypoxia which we were told can result in cerebral palsy and in other cases epileptic fits, seizures and panic attacks. This affected Mark throughout his life.

"He never married, he lived by himself in an apartment and we noticed that he began to  withdraw himself from family occasions. We always invited him to come along and encouraged him to join us. And despite his self-imposed isolation, we never abandoned him and we helped him in every way possible.

"But it became apparent to us, and eventually to him, that alcohol had taken over and he was persuaded to seek counselling which he undertook. However, whenever he stopped drinking, the inevitable seizures would return.

"The medical advice was then for Mark to withdraw from alcohol gradually. An impossible task for an alcoholic."

Despite written evidence supporting Mark's claims for benefits, he was called in for reassessment and his money was cut.

Photo of Cliff Scott with son Mark, daughters Kim Marsden and Karen Calvert who died in October 2010.Cliff, who also lost one of his daughters to breast cancer in October 2010, said: "Last summer, Mark was told he had to attend a one-to-one assessment with the DWP in connection with the benefits he was receiving.

"Although Mark had notes from his doctor informing the DWP that he was eligible for the claims, Mark was told he had not attained the required 15 points, scoring just six. His benefits were to be stopped on December 15.

"I said to them, if he's ok to work, in which department in the DWP would he fit in? He clearly wasn't ok.

"The assessor reported that he would be ok because he can play guitar. But at the time, he had a broken arm and dislocated shoulder. There was no way then that he could play guitar. So how did they come to that conclusion?

"We immediately lodged an appeal and were assured that pending a tribunal, the benefits would not be stopped.

"But it wasn't until after Christmas that Mark told me that his benefits had been stopped. He died just a few weeks later.

"The anxiety brought on by the whole thing clearly brought about my son's death. The way in which he was treated by the DWP was appalling. The DWP is striving to hit the targets which are being laid down by the government to cut benefits and there is a human cost to that. 

"My son is one of the victims.

"We need to stop this grotesque situation before more people lose their lives."

Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson said the real impact of the Tory-Lib Dem government's push to get people off incapacity benefits is the human cost.

Bill said: "I have been contacted by lots of people who are really very distressed at the prospect of losing their benefits because of this government's heavy handed way of forcing people to be reassessed.

"People who have be assessed as being unable to work are being sent back to be reassessed. But I am getting increasingly concerned by the reports which people are telling me they are getting back.

"I have been told about individuals who clearly have mobility issues but who are reported as being able to get about without assistance. Other where accounts in the reports don't match what actually happened during the assessment.

"This clearly seems to be true in Mark's case as he was deemed fit for work as he could play guitar. But at the time of the assessment he had a broken arm and dislocated shoulder. He clearly also had serious long term illnesses and his doctors confirmed this to the DWP.

"I am concerned about the inconsistency of the reports people are receiving and waste of money the government is making by sending people are who are very obviously not able to work and have already been assessed as so."

The Labour MP passed his condolences on to Mr Scott and the rest of his family.

Bill said: "I feel very much for the Cliff and the rest of the family.

"They clearly did all they could to help Mark, but the system let them down.

"I am already in the process of taking this case up with the Secretary of State. The government needs to learn lessons from Mark Scott and this heartless way claimants are being treated needs to stop." 

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