Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/694/13153
Cuts kill - Poverty, despair and a suicide pact
Cuts to public services and benefits are causing massive suffering and misery. Tragically, the bodies of a vulnerable couple, Mark and Helen Mullins, were found in their Warwickshire home this month. Mark, an army veteran, and Helen, who suffered from learning difficulties, died in what is seen as a 'suicide pact'.
The couple feared being too poor to live through another freezing winter on the poverty line on £57.50 a week benefits. Every Sunday they had walked to a soup kitchen 12 miles away in Coventry to have something to eat and pick up food bags after Mrs Mullins' benefits were stopped 18 months ago.
They boiled free vegetables from the soup kitchen into a broth on a camping stove and lived in just one room of their terraced house to save on heating costs.
Social services are understood to have taken away Helen's 12 year-old daughter last year as she was considered incapable of looking after her. As a result, her child benefits stopped but she was ineligible to claim Jobseeker's Allowance because she was not deemed fit to work.
Helen was also told she did not qualify for incapacity benefit because she had not been officially diagnosed with a medical condition. Mark Mullins, his wife's full-time carer, was told he could not claim for a carer's allowance until she was diagnosed with a disorder.
Speaking in a documentary about the soup kitchen last December Mr Mullins said: "We were caught in a Catch 22 situation. We were living hand to mouth. I think the system is very unkind."
A social worker commented: "They were trying to do the right thing ... the right way, and it seems like every corner they turned, they met a different obstacle."
A nurse who specialises in psychiatric care commented: "This sad and shocking story is a damning indictment of the Con-Dems and their 'big society', a condemnation of the cuts and the glaring lack of adequate community care resources."
It happened because learning difficulties (LD) community teams are under-resourced and have a very high threshold for accepting anyone onto their books. A person's IQ has to be measured as being below 70, so many disabled people fall through the net.
If you are not under a specialist team like mental health or learning difficulties it would be very hard to argue successfully for getting 'disability benefits' unless you are extremely clever or have a good lawyer or other good independent representation.
The benefits system is very complex to navigate. A couple like this should have had a professional person involved, ie a community LD nurse/social worker to link them into their local Jobcentre-plus.
Mrs Mullins would then have secured her benefits or got them reinstated quickly or got a crisis loan.
Primary care, ie GP's surgeries, just don't have the time or resources to support such vulnerable people. With no family or friends, they were basically left without any support at all and this tragic loss of life occurred."
In The Socialist 16 November 2011:
Fighting the cuts
Socialist Party workplace news
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party reports and campaigns
The Socialist - Readers' comments