Is Universal Credit making more people homeless?

Is Universal Credit making more people homeless? A quarter of Tory council leaders think so. The Government’s flagship welfare policy is making homelessness worse, according some Tory council leaders.

More than a quarter of Conservative council leaders believe that Universal Credit is contributing to homelessness. The Government’s flagship policy has made more people homeless, according to 28% of Conservative leaders and council mayors.

They were responding to a survey by think tank the New Local Government Network.

In the North East, the number of rough sleepers rose from 51 in 2018 to 66 in 2019, an increase of 29%. Many experts believe the real number may be higher than official figures show.

Universal credit ‘forces tenants into rent arrears’

The think tank reported that North East council leaders were pessimistic about the prospect of ending rough sleeping. Three out of 10 said they believed they could halve rough sleeping by 2022, and 54% said they would eradicate rough sleeping by 2027. And only one in 10 believed they would be able to end rough sleeping entirely by 2027, while 20% said they did not know and 70% said it was unlikely.

The think tank said: “70% of respondents from councils in the North East reported that it is unlikely or very unlikely that they will eradicate rough sleeping by 2027. “This lack of confidence may in part be explained by the 29% rise in rough sleeping in the North East from 2017 to 2018.”

And nationwide, the think tank said: “87% of Labour leaders and council mayors thought that Universal Credit had increased homelessness in their council’s area, in contrast to 28% of Conservative leaders and council mayors. “Even so, this indicates that over a quarter of Conservative leaders and council mayors identify a negative impact of their party’s own policy.”

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Adam Lent, the director of the New Local Government Network, said: “On the one hand the Government is pressing councils hard to reduce homelessness and on the other it is pursuing a welfare policy that is increasing homelessness. This is patently irrational and self-defeating.

“The Government must conduct an urgent review of how Universal Credit is increasing homelessness and make the necessary changes to its welfare policy to remedy the situation.”

The NLGN “Leadership Index” is a survey of council leaders, chief executives and mayors of local authorities across the UK.

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Benefits row as DWP criticised for refusing payments to dying man

Govt Newspeak

Man offers to bring brother's ashes to appeal meeting after DWP said he 'wasn't sick enough'

A terminally ill man who was allegedly twice refused disability benefits was offered to appeal his case five months after he died. Dad-of-six Jamie Oliver [above right], 49, died on April 9, after a long battle with chronic liver disease. His brother Dave Smith said Jamie, a former labourer from St-Leonards-On-Sea, in East Sussex, was twice turned down for the Personal Independence Payment (PIP). But five months after his brother’s death, Dave has been left furious that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has now arranged an appeal meeting in late September over his brother’s claim.

A letter offering the meeting was discovered after one of Jamie’s grief-stricken children opened it at their father’s address. Now Dave plans to take his brother’s ashes to the DWP meeting as a ‘matter of principle’, calling the department ‘shambolic, insensitive, incompetent and unhelpful’.

Speaking of his brother’s final moments, Dave recalled how…

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After the coup, what’s left of the British constitution?

The contemptuous ease with which the Johnson-Cummings regime has attempted to cripple parliamentary consideration of alternatives to a no-deal Brexit by proroguing Parliament raises further serious issues about the remaining value of the UK’s ‘unfixed constitution’.

This controversy comes after a prolonged period in which the executive under May used every micro-institutional weapon to blackmail MPs into accepting its deal. Patrick Dunleavy argues that the UK has slipped into having a failed constitution, where core democratic institutions are contaminated by rigged micro-institutions.

The control of power has become dominated by a bunch of executive tricks, and an uncodified ‘constitution’ no longer provides any predictable or worthwhile constraints on government action. Yet it may be only a small step from creating a failed constitution to becoming some version of a failed state.

How do we recognise government attempts to deform a liberal democracy so as to get their way? As Putin, Erdogan and a host of others have demonstrated, there must be 50 ways to lose your constitution as any kind of constraint on incumbents exercising raw power as they wish. Perhaps the majority party calls the legislature to consider new laws at 5.30am (without informing the opposition). Or perhaps the opposition is notified but opposing MPs are intimidated by an induced deadline crisis and media blackguarding in every lobby. Perhaps a president suspends the legislature for a lengthy period and governs alone using decree powers supposedly reserved for an emergency, as many a Latin American banana republic did before the transition from authoritarian rule.

The constitutional thinkers of the Conservative party used to regard the prospects of any such developments in the UK as both anathema to the gradual evolution of the UK’s constitution on which they laid such stress, and almost impossible to happen here, except through socialist assaults. Ian Gilmour wrote in 1977 (Inside Right, p. 226):

In my view, a two-party system and an unfixed constitution is the highest form of political development yet seen. Unfortunately owing to the current political infantilism of the Labour Party it seems at present too high for Britain. It depends upon informal checks and balance and the self-restraint of politicians.

All the ‘British constitution’ texts have long reiterated the same message. The lack of codification of the UK’s constitution presented no substantial dangers, but instead gifted the country with a set of legal and constitutional arrangements that could easily flex and adapt for changing times and situations. The UK would have none of the irresolvable legacy problems of written constitutions gone obsolescent, such as the USA’s current enduring problems over the Second Amendment on the carrying of firearms.

A great deal of faith was also placed in British elites’ developed respect for Parliament, for public opinion and for legality. A range of constitutional conventions were ascribed central importance. Sometimes they were presented as ‘tripwires’ effective enough to block executive malfeasance. Alternatively, perhaps they were only constitutional ‘rumble strips’ that could be driven over, but not without the executive noticing and experiencing discomfort – and with voters standing as the ultimate arbiters of acceptable conduct.

Precious little now remains of such glib and overly-optimistic voices – and ironically the coup de grace has come from both ‘moderate’ Conservatives and the warped Euroscepticism of right-wing ideologues who never recovered from the ‘stab in the back’ that brought down Thatcher in 1990. Theresa May’s government demonstrated not an elite responsiveness to MPs after 2017, but instead an increasingly frenzied exploitation of a host of parliamentary micro-institutions to bulldoze the May-Whitehall compromise Brexit deal through a reluctant Commons where government policies had no majority. This was the curtain raiser for the Johnson government’s more grand-scale effort to unilaterally rework the UK constitution so as to give the PM ‘governance by decree’ powers.

The corrosive role of micro institutions

‘Micro-institutions’ are small-scale rules, regulations, minor organisational norms and cultural practices, scattered across a range of institutional settings and often pretty obscure. They none the less can frequently govern how macro-institutions work out in practice. Some of them may switch on or off the effects of macro-institutions, and others can modify them in fundamental ways. Arguably, one of the key factors that separates core democracies from semi-democracies like Putin’s Russia is that in liberal democracies micro-institutions work to support democratic macro-institutions, while in semi-democracies they are subverted (subtly or flagrantly) so as to privilege incumbents.

In Theresa May’s repeated efforts to push her government’s negotiated Brexit deal through the Commons from late 2018 to May 2019 there were already multiple warning signs of micro-institutions being used in ways that were corrosive of any genuine responsiveness to Parliament.

An obscure set of micro-institutions playing a key role were ‘business motions accessible only to the Crown’, on which was founded the executive’s capacity to ‘run down the clock’ on the supposedly fixed exit deadline of 29 March 2019. A key Commons vote was planned for mid-December 2018, but then cancelled at the last minute when it looked likely to be lost. Postponed for another month (of the three supposedly remaining, it was eventually held and lost two to one).

The government then returned to the Commons with a very lightly altered set of proposals for essentially the same deal, overturning the convention that Parliament does not re-vote on the same rejected law. Only when the Speaker finally rejected another effort to re-vote did the government admit defeat. May also kept in play a ‘no deal’ Brexit (and even a limited amount of ‘hostage-taking’ of EU citizens’ rights and livelihoods) as a reversionary option to try and compel her dissident MPs to still back her deal, despite the Commons repeatedly voting to show its rejection of any no deal outcome.

In the same line the Johnson government (advised by Cummings who is openly contemptuous of parliamentary government) has now sculpted from the equally obscure prerogative powers surrounding the prorogation of Parliament a superficially bland but deeply toxic disabling of the Commons for 35 of the 61 days remaining to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

The timings involved are clearly tailored to frustrate any efforts of a fragmented opposition to concert an effective counter-action before September 10 or after 14 October, while yet bringing a Commons tied hand and foot back in time to witness but almost certainly unable to prevent a ‘no deal’ outcome on the 31st. That the Queen and her constitutional advisors accepted this proposal at its face value is yet another nail in the coffin of the old constitution, with the monarch’s vestigial capacity even to ‘advise and warn’ now obliterated and shown up as a fiction, for the meanest of partisan exigencies.

Above all the ruthless exploitation of micro-institutions by the incumbent regime in the grossest manner, at whatever cost to the public values previously binding the British polity together, has culminated in the creation of a constitutional status quo that is bafflingly complicated and indeterminate.

Instead of great decisions resting on the clearly expressed will of Parliament, or the consultation of voters via a second referendum or a general election, a minority government and a PM that no one has elected are apparently set on achieving their will by converting to their purposes a swarm of micro-institutions of which almost all voters, and most constitutional ‘experts’ have little or no knowledge. The unfixed constitution has been exploited until it has failed to have any credibility as a guarantor of democratically responsive government or constraint on the executive’s power whatsoever.

Conclusions

It remains just possible still that Parliamentary control of the Brexit process may be reasserted, by one (or even two) of the four mechanisms set out by David Howarth. Perhaps there may even be a more striking (if temporary) change away from previous partisan practices at Westminster, leading to a general election, as sketched by Jonathan Boston. The Brexit story has already had more unlikely twists in the last three years. But it seemed unlikely back in July, and even more so now.

An alternative narrative may also develop where in response to one or more counter-actions in the Commons the Johnson government can represent itself as forced to hold an election. In such a poll the PM might be able to rely on voters’ anxiety to get shot of Brexit and to talk about something else at long last, using issue fatigue to smooth over whatever Machiavellian manoeuvres preceded the electorate’s involvement.

There is a bleak precedent here, from Australia in 1973 when a partisan governor-general, Sir John Kerr (representing the Queen) abruptly terminated the Gough Whitlam government, and installed a Liberal PM. The new premier called a general election and won – thereby burying under the weight of a popular endorsement the skullduggery that had preceded it. The equivalent outcome here could yet see a Johnson victory (perhaps even a landslide) against a still hopeless fragmented ‘remainer’ opposition.

A third and final possibility, though, is that the government lives on, Brexit happens, but the current constitutional failure deepens further into the UK becoming a ‘failed state’ in multiple dimensions, as even some liberal conservative voices have suggested. The management of a liberal democratic state is a delicate business.

Coming after prolonged austerity Brexit has already wrought significant damage to the UK governing apparatus, with policy inertia exerting a pall for more than three years. We’ve known since the London and city riots in August 2011 that the UK state is in a fragile and not resilient condition.

It is more than ever reliant on the quasi-voluntary compliance of almost all its citizens to carry on working. Johnson’s manoeuvre must cause a further delegitimization of government, risking a spectrum of severely adverse developments that might include significant civil disobedience, some public order turmoil, a weakening of ‘tax discipline’ (‘no taxation without representation’), and in short order the break-up of the UK.

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‘Worst summer yet’ for child hunger as foodbanks rely on reserves

This has been the ‘worst summer yet’ for millions of children facing holiday hunger, with foodbanks operating on reserves, according to an MP. Frank Field MP, who founded the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger and Food Poverty, says the government must now set up a national scheme and be done with experiments, to prevent a repeat next summer.

rank Field MP is calling on the government to 'prevent a repeat next summer' (Picture: REX, PA)
Frank Field MP is calling on the government to ‘prevent a repeat next summer’

Mr Field says millions of children on free school meals and those from low-income households were going hungry not only in his own constituency of Birkenhead but across the country. He told Metro.co.uk: ‘We’ve had two years of experiments by the government, piloting funding schemes to see what works.

‘This is getting worse, the government has to now set up a national scheme. ‘We seem to be finding money for all sorts of things now after Brexit, it’s about time the government established a national scheme for all children to make sure they don’t go hungry during the summer’.

Mr Field also said the government had to act to abolish VAT on school uniforms to help poorer families with costs. He added: ‘What is totally scandalous, is schools making parents buy uniforms from a single approved retailer at extortionate prices. ‘That has to end.’

He also hit out at critics who question whether the plight of children living in poverty in the UK is exaggerated compared to ‘other countries’. He further added that while poverty undoubtedly exists elsewhere, that shouldn’t undermine efforts to tackle the fact that parents and children were going hungry in the UK.

A cross-party group of MPs and peers have warned that almost 3 million children were at risk of going hungry during the summer holidays this year, as parents on low-incomes struggled to feed children who would otherwise receive free school meals.

Although the government had announced a £9 million fund for 11 summer holiday clubs this year, many parts of the country did not receive any funding, adding the pressure on charities and foodbanks to step in.

Mr Field added that he wanted to express his thanks to the charities, volunteers and foodbanks who had worked ‘so hard in the summer’ to prevent children and families going hungry, but hopes there is no repeat next year. He added: ‘I’m hoping to see some announcements in the Queen’s speech on these matters’.

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A CHARITY boss who caused outrage online after claiming food poverty was ‘just idleness’ has apologised.

A CHARITY boss who caused outrage online after claiming a cheap Chinese meal he had prepared showed food poverty was ‘just idleness’ has apologised.

Dishing it out: Mr Booton’s tweet listing his ingredients and the ‘idle’ comment

Andrew Booton tweeted an image of the chicken stir-fry he made for four at £3.89 — a total of 97p per head — adding: ‘Don’t tell me we have food poverty in this country. It’s just idleness.’

Mr Booton, head of the Cheltenham Civic Society in Gloucestershire, also listed how much he paid for each ingredient, from £2.35 for chicken to 24p for noodles.

But many who responded after his tweet last Friday said he failed to understand the reality of food poverty. Chef and food writer Jack Monroe, who is known for her budget meals, said: ‘Live on that for a year and get back to me with your scurvy, rickets, lack of fruit and veg and hopefully a dent in your enormous sense of entitlement. Also did you factor in the electric, pan, spoon, bowl, roof over your head, hob, & complete lack of understanding of the issues?’

Another person commented: ‘£3.89 is £3 a day more than I have from my Universal Credit this month.’ In another tweet on Monday, Mr Booton apologised saying his original had been ‘well intentioned’ but was ‘poorly considered and badly phrased’. He added: ‘The tweet has been deleted and I am very sorry for having trivialised a serious issue.’

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Disgraced Tory councillor quits health committee after calling parents of disabled man ‘selfish’

What does Margaret Stone want to do: go back to the days when disabled babies were euthanised? YES EUTHANISED! When I had my first home [back in the mid 70s] I lived by a retired midwife and she told me that she worked as a midwife [from the 40s to the late 60s] and she once told me something so shocking I never believed her. She said: that disabled children were euthanised after birth because of the burden to the family and society and although I didn’t call her a liar I never believed her. She told me of one particularly bad case [when she was one working on a childrens ward] was of a child with meningitis that the doctor euthanised as a “mercy” for the family.

Years later I believed her, when the subject was touched upon in the BBC drama Call the Midwife, When the character Sister Monica Joan related how disabled babies were euthanised as a “mercy” to the family and [in another episode] when a Thalidomide baby was allowed to die.

Lets face it hundreds of thousands of able-bodied children were unwanted and shipped to countries far away, many to be used as slaves and sexually abused, so the disabled had no chance – expect to be sent to institutions.

Another account of euthanasia by medical staff was told to me by an elderly lady who was a member of my church. She said: her mother was a nurse post WWI and many soldiers that returned from the trenches came back with a death sentence [and didn’t know it].

Many came home with syphilis and back then there was no cure and this lady’s mother worked on the syphilis ward and treated the men and she said when the disease got very advanced, they were euthanised – again as a “mercy”.

So I ask again, does this councillor want to go back to the “good old days” where life was cheap, where you were good enough to fight for your country but not receive any help afterwards! Even now we have veterans homeless and denied benefits and yet they’ll [i.e. govts] honour the dead on remembrance day!

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There’s my two-pennorth worth for today, I’m off to do more packing – toodles

also see: The photos that reveal the horror of eugenics: Disturbing images document a time when those with undesirable genetic traits were sterilised or killed in order to ‘cleanse’ society


A DISGRACED Tory councillor in Norfolk resigned from her committee leadership today after the Morning Star reported her labelling disabled people and their carers “selfish.”

Margaret Stone was chair of Norfolk County Council’s health overview and scrutiny committee. But she stood down today after having sent an aggressive email to Nick and Judith Taylor, who have a 29-year-old son with Down’s syndrome.

Mr and Mrs Taylor were part of a group of disabled people and carers who organised a meeting on the council premises about the impact of social care cuts in Norfolk.

Not a single Conservative councillor attended the meeting, leading Mr and Mrs Taylor to email Ms Stone to request a meeting with her and other party members.

Only 12 minutes later Ms Stone aggressively responded: “I am increasingly disgusted in your campaign which is so selfish as to believe your needs are greater than the rest of the population.

“Think of the rest of the population of Norfolk when 70 per cent of their council tax goes to you and your family.” In a follow-up Ms Stone, who has not resigned as a councillor, said: “I am very sorry that the email I sent you caused you and others such distress.

“I recognise fully how insensitive my words were as I know you do everything to ensure your son has the best life possible.”

A council spokesman said: “I can confirm that Margaret Stone has stood down as chairman of the Norfolk health overview and scrutiny committee.”

Disabled People Against Cuts activist Jennifer Jones told the Star: “This is a victory for all disabled people, and our allies.”

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Thousands more people to be eligible for disabled Blue Badges from Today

People with mental health problems, such as depression and those in “severe psychological distress” will be able to access the benefit.

A positive change to the Blue Badge scheme will come into play on Friday 30 August, when people with hidden disabilities such as anxiety and even Crohn’s Disease will be able to apply for the support.

It comes after the Department for Transport unveiled plans to extend its Blue Badge Scheme earlier this year to cover those with invisible illnesses, including mental health problems, such as depression and those in “severe psychological distress”.

Around 2.35 million people in the UK currently have blue badge permits because they have physical mobility difficulties or are registered, to an extent, blind.

These permits help them access goods and services, by allowing them to park closer to their destination. Under the changes, more people with invisible disabilities will be able to benefit from this, making everyday tasks easier and reducing loneliness and isolation.

However critics say councils are ill-prepared for the new rules that will put potentially millions more drivers in priority need spaces. Confused.com figures show there are 30 Blue Badge holders for every one council-owned parking space right now – a problem that will worsen with more badge holders on the road.

The comparison website is also calling for tougher punishments for those who break the law when using the parking permits. Dedicated Blue Badge parking spaces are available for badge holders, as they’re often located closer to entrances or offer more room to get in and out of the car.

However, figures show that many drivers are abusing this luxury. Last year, more than 156,821 parking charge notice (PCN) were issued to drivers for wrongly parking in a Blue Badge parking space – a 15% increase compared to 2016 (136,940).

Amanda Stretton, motoring editor at Confused.com, said: “Clearly more parking for Blue Badge holders is needed – 30 drivers to one space is quite a challenge. It’s no wonder some of these drivers have had to park elsewhere. And the number of people competing for spaces is only going to grow as more people can apply for a Blue Badge now.

“Drivers who misuse these spaces are making the problem even worse. They should be more respectful and leave them free for those who need them.

Ceri Smith, at disability equality charity Scope, said unless the Government takes action on car parks, the extension of the scheme will be worthless. “With spaces already scarce, it’s extremely worrying that so few councils have prepared for the expansion of the Blue Badge scheme, despite knowing it was coming for months.

“Many disabled people, including those with invisible impairments, need to be able to park close to shops and amenities. “Without enough dedicated parking spaces, Blue Badges aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.

“Councils need to up their game to ensure Blue Badge holders can actually use them.”

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Unmarried mum whose partner died says the government treats her children as ‘irrelevant’

An unmarried mother from Northern Ireland who won a Supreme Court case this day a year ago allowing her to claim a widowed parent’s pension has spoken of her anger that the law has still not been changed.

Siobhan McLaughlin (centre) reacts to the judgment on Thursday

Siobhan McLaughlin [centre], from Armoy, County Antrim, took her fight to the highest court in the UK after being refused the allowance because she and her late partner John Adams had not been married or in a civil partnership.

Mr Adams, the father of their children Stuart, Lisa, Billy and Rebecca, died of cancer in January 2014. The couple had been together for 23 years, but Ms McLaughlin had to take on an evening job after being refused a widowed parent’s allowance by the Northern Ireland Department for Communities.

Ms McLaughlin initially won a case after claiming unlawful discrimination based on her marital status, but that ruling was later overturned by the Court of Appeal.

A year ago today, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Ms McLaughlin, but said it was up to the government whether or how to change the law, something that has not happened.

“I feel like the government still class my children and children like them that aren’t born into marriage, as irrelevant,” said Ms McLaughlin. “It saddens me to think of all the children who, just like mine, are being treated like they are worth less than children of married parents.

“They are being denied support when they need it most, and all those parents going through what I did, the shock and shame of learning that their children are going to lose out and then the stress and worry of having to make ends meet as well as coping with loss of my partner.”

In a statement, the Department for Work and Pensions said that work in the area was ongoing. “We are actively considering options following the ruling,” a spokesperson said. “We are committed to supporting people during bereavement and have widened the support available. This is in addition to help provided for cohabiting couples through the wider welfare system.”

Ms McLaughlin’s solicitor, Laura Banks, of Francis Hanna & Co in Belfast, said: “We know that the current system is outdated. It is not fit for purpose and urgently needs reform.

“It is unacceptable and shameful that we now have a government continuing to discriminate against children with this archaic policy, a year after the Supreme Court has held that doing so is unlawful.”

Ms Banks said thousands of other parents across the UK are affected by the legal limbo created by the lack of action. Ms McLaughlin insists that she remains optimistic legislation will be drawn up, and has urged the government to treat children of cohabiting parents as equal to those born in wedlock.

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 Man to take brother’s ashes to appeal meeting after DWP said he ‘wasn’t sick enough’

Man offers to bring brother's ashes to appeal meeting after DWP said he 'wasn't sick enough'

A terminally ill man who was allegedly twice refused disability benefits was offered to appeal his case five months after he died. Dad-of-six Jamie Oliver [above right], 49, died on April 9, after a long battle with chronic liver disease. His brother Dave Smith said Jamie, a former labourer from St-Leonards-On-Sea, in East Sussex, was twice turned down for the Personal Independence Payment (PIP). But five months after his brother’s death, Dave has been left furious that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has now arranged an appeal meeting in late September over his brother’s claim.

A letter offering the meeting was discovered after one of Jamie’s grief-stricken children opened it at their father’s address. Now Dave plans to take his brother’s ashes to the DWP meeting as a ‘matter of principle’, calling the department ‘shambolic, insensitive, incompetent and unhelpful’.

Speaking of his brother’s final moments, Dave recalled how Jamie was heartbroken to hear that he didn’t have long left to live – and was still waiting for benefits. In a Facebook post, shared with their final picture together, Dave said: ‘This picture was taken less than 12 hours before he passed away. ‘One of the last things he said to us being: “I don’t believe it. I’m going to die and I’m still not sick enough for PIP”.’

‘The consultant said to him: “I can’t lie to you it’s not going to be long now”,’ added his brother. ‘You can understand how anybody would react. He was beside himself.’ Jamie suffered with chronic liver disease for years but his health deteriorated in 2016. According to his brother, he could barely walk a ‘few yards’, was almost housebound and underwent hundreds of blood transfusions. But Dave said an assessor still scored him ‘zero points’ on each criteria on both occasions he applied for PIP.

‘He was really really struggling to make ends meet, he couldn’t go out,’ Dave told Metro.co.uk ‘He only went out to the local supermarket 500 yards up the road. He went out at five and wouldn’t get back until seven or eight. ‘500 yards and that’s how long it took him, he was absolutely exhausted – like he had run ten marathons. ‘Eventually it killed him because he collapsed one day on the way back from Lidl and was found in a pool of blood. It is pitiful to be honest.’

Dave said his brother first applied for PIP in February last year but his last few months were dominated by thinking ‘PIP doesn’t want to help’. He added: ‘I don’t want anybody to go through what my brother did, and it’s far to common in this day and age. It’s disgraceful.’ Dave criticised his MP and Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Amber Rudd in the Facebook post. He said: ‘Well if they want to see him at the appeal hearing I shall take along my share of his ashes and we shall see just how responsive he is to their questions.

‘Amber Rudd, our dear MP, who also happens to be in charge of the DWP, was supposedly already dealing with the fact his claim had been declined twice (wasn’t sick enough apparently). ‘Well her involvement has been so wonderfully useful they are still writing to a dead person at his original address even though they have all my details.’

‘I honestly cannot think of an organization as shambolic, insensitive, incompetent and unhelpful as the DWP and the sooner all this PIP/Universal Credit fiasco is kicked into touch the better. ‘To say I am p***** off and angry is an understatement.

How insulting for his kids too, one of whom found the letter addressed to their dead father.’ His brother intends to pursue the claim in the hope of getting the backdated payments so his family can pay for the funeral costs.

A Government spokesperson said: ‘Our thoughts are with Mr Oliver’s family at this difficult time. ‘We are very sorry for the distress caused and are looking into this to prevent it happening again.’

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Disabled woman starved to death at home after carer visited own mother instead

‘Your neglect of Julie Cleworth set in motion an unbroken sequence of events which led directly to her death,’ judge says

Care worker Tracey Burrows, pictured, was convicted of gross negligence manslaughter after she left a disabled woman to starve
Care worker Tracey Burrows, pictured, was convicted of gross negligence manslaughter after she left a disabled woman to starve

A care worker who left a severely disabled woman to starve to death in her home has been convicted of gross negligence manslaughter. Julie Cleworth had severe mobility issues following a stroke and required several visits a day from health visitors.

Tracey Burrows, 56, was due to carry out a 30-minute visit to Ms Cleworth, but went to see her own mother instead, Liverpool Crown Court heard. She wrongly assumed Ms Cleworth had not arrived back from a hospital stay, lying to her employer Unite Healthcare Ltd that she had been inside the property.

As a result of this false information, Unite cancelled Ms Cleworth’s care package. The 43-year-old was found dead 9 February 2017 after spending four days without food, water or medicines.

“Your neglect of Julie Cleworth set in motion an unbroken sequence of events which led directly to her death,” Judge Neil Flewitt QC told Burrows at sentencing. I accept that you neither intended nor actually foresaw the consequences of your actions.

“However, if you had stopped to think about what you were doing, instead of neglecting your duty and going instead to visit your mother, you would have realised that your actions might lead to Julie Cleworth’s death.”

Ms Cleworth had been completely reliant upon care workers after a stroke in 2013 left her immobile and required five visits per day. A week before her death she had been admitted to hospital, suspected of suffering from deep vein thrombosis. She was discharged three days later.

She typically spent all her time in the living room at the front of the house, but lacking the equipment to move her properly, the ambulance crew put her on an electric bed in a room at the back of the house.

Burrows had regularly cared for Ms Cleworth, so when she saw there was no light on in the front room, she wrongly assumed Ms Cleworth was still in hospital without checking the rest of the house.

While she returned to the address later that evening, this time she did not even get out of her car. “One can only imagine the terror which must have overcome Julie Cleworth as she lay helpless in bed, realising that she had been abandoned and left to starve to death,” said Judge Flewitt.

Burrows had worked for privately owned Unite Healthcare since 2013, although she was convicted of benefit fraud in March 2014 and received a 12-month jail term, suspended for the same period.

She denied manslaughter by gross negligence.

Defending, Nigel Power QC, said the manslaughter offence was a lapse from the otherwise exemplary care the mother-of-three provided to all her patients and that an “eclectic” range of character references showed her to be “utterly selfless in almost every aspect of her life”.

Burrows received the national minimum wage, which was £7.20 an hour in 2017. “It is surprising that as a society we expect people to provide the level of care that Ms Burrows was providing for that hourly rate,” Judge Flewitt said. “For each of those half-hour visits she made she was required to perform tasks that I suspect a lot of people would find very difficult.”But he concluded this was irrelevant to the offence committed as it was a job she had agreed to do, and the standard of care required of her was not any less because her pay might be regarded as poor.

Judge Flewitt noted she had expressed remorse and shame but said he found those sentiments “difficult to reconcile” with her assertion to the jury that she did not believe she bore any responsibility for Ms Cleworth’s death.

He sentenced her to three years in prison after a jury found her guilty.

He said it could properly be argued that Unite Healthcare should have made further inquiries to establish where Ms Cleworth was, but that the defendant’s neglect of duty and subsequent lie was the “catalyst” for what followed, Judge Flewitt said.

“Although this is a really awful series of events, I hope this sentencing brings some closure to Ms Cleworth’s family,” detective inspector Craig Turner of Merseyside Police said after the verdict.

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