A Scunthorpe man has received a 40% cut in benefits after he was diagnosed with cancer, leaving him in serious financial distress during his battle with a disease that killed his father and brother. To add insult the injury, the DWP told him that he could return to his previous level of benefits, provided he gave up treatment and complied with the Jobseeker’s programme.
The internet has been buzzing with outrage over the DWP’s treatment of Pete Woodcock, together with a disgraceful level of judgement that Mike Sivier highlights with his usual elegance over at Vox Political.
Pete has been unemployed for eight years, but volunteers 40 hours each week in his community. When he was diagnosed with cancer he needed to stop attending his jobs club and cut back on volunteering to accommodate his treatment and necessary respite. The DWP’s response was to slash his benefits by 40% as he moved from Jobseeker benefits, to sickness benefits. He told the Scunthorpe Telegraph:
“I have just lately been diagnosed with cancer. I’ve had numerous hospital visits on both sides of the Humber and because of my hospital visits been unable to attend job clubs. Hence I had to sign on sickness pay.”
“When a person has cancer the last thing a person needs to worry about is finances but I now have to look after my family, pay bills and finance my trips to hospitals on less than £100 per week.”
Here is a man who has found himself unable to gain paid employment, but who is clearly a contribution to his community — volunteering for more hours than some people are required to work, for the pittance of £140 a week. He is diagnosed with a terminal illness, and instead of support he receives another major concern to add to his list.
The knuckle-dragging level of emotional intelligence by the DWP is startling enough, but one line of the story in the Telegraph knocked the wind right out of me. Pete says:
“The DWP even told me that if I went back on to jobseekers and gave up my treatment I could go back on to £140 per week to live on.”
I’m going to give you a moment to read that line again. Now again. Now let it sink in.
If he gives up his cancer treatment and continues attending jobs club…resulting in his almost certain death…he can have £140 week. This is the kind of bureaucratic evil for which this government is becoming synonymous.
The government insists its work programmes are all about human dignity, when in reality they are about stripping people of their dignity, their self-respect and any lingering concept of the social contract. Remember the social contract? This government (and New Labour before it, in its own quiet way) is tearing it up and throwing it in the faces of those who rely on it most.