Fury as Theresa May promotes MP who said people use foodbanks because of their ‘choices’ in life


Now I don’t know about anyone else, but, if a kind, benevolent, caring, philanthropic Tory MP was promoted, then I would be shocked, this attitude of Glen’s and his ilk is totally normal and [sadly] to be expected.

John Glen is now in government despite his “astonishing” comments – and at one point was even lined up as minister for foodbanks



There was anger tonight after Theresa May promoted an MP who said people use foodbanks because of their ‘choices’ in life.

No more than we have come to expect from him and his ilk!

John Glen is now in government despite his “astonishing” comments – and at one point was even lined up as minister for foodbanks.

The government told trade website Civil Society News yesterday that Mr Glen would be minister for civil society, overseeing charities.

But that was later retracted and he was confirmed as minister for heritage, arts and tourism, part of the same department.

Even so, Mr Glen has come under fire for remarks blaming foodbank use on “the chaotic nature of lives of some people.”

And his promotion comes days after fellow Tory MP Dominic Raab – who blamed “cash flow problems” for foodbank use and said claimants were not “languishing in poverty” – was promoted to a job in the Ministry of Justice.

Foodbank use has rocketed over the last few years as austerity cuts bite (Photo: Getty Images Europe)

In a 2011 interview with Channel 4 News, Mr Glen suggested only those with “three or four children” had to beg for handouts adding: “There is a choice there”.

He said: “I believe that everyone who’s working will have enough food if they don’t spend money on other things.

“There is a choice there, that if you spend money on food to start off with.

“If you earn anything or you have the minimum wage, you will have some money for food. The question is what other things the money is being spent on.”

Pressed on his remarks at the time he said: “There is a group of people who aren’t getting the hours, hours have been cut, they’ve maybe got three or four children and things are very very tight.

“But I don’t think that is something that is an ongoing issue that people are living on the foodbank all the time.”

Since Mr Glen’s interview foodbank use has exploded as Tory cuts bite.

The Trussell Trust, who operate food banks throughout the UK, handed out 128,697 three-day emergency food packages in 2011/12.

In 2016-17 that figure had risen to 1,182,954.

Deputy Labour leader and shadow culture secretary Tom Watson said the comments were “astonishing and insensitive.”

He added: “Working families use foodbanks out of desperation, not choice, but this weak Conservative Government continually refuses to take any responsibility for the impact of their policies”

A source at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) insisted it had just been “speculation” that Mr Glen was getting the civil society brief – which is held instead by Tracey Crouch.

The source claimed the decision of what job to give Mr Glen was only made today.

That insistence came despite Mr Glen tweeting himself yesterday at 7pm: “Excellent busy first day as Minister for the Arts, Heritage and Tourism.”

With Theresa May thrashing out a deal with the anti-gay-marriage DUP , Mr Glen has also come under fire for his record defending the controversial charity Christian Action, Research and Education (CARE).

CARE helped fund a £50-a-head ‘gay cure’ conference in 2009 that discussed “therapeutic approaches to same-sex attraction”.

CARE insists it has never advocated for “gay cure”, the issue is not one it campaigns on and co-sponsoring the event did not indicate support for gay cure.

But the group says marriage is “between one man and one woman” and campaigned against “redefining” it when David Cameron introduced same-sex unions in 2013.

In 2012 Mr Glen was quoted as saying: “We’re not going to be bullied into giving up links with an organisation that does a great deal of good on the basis of a smear campaign.”

Shadow culture minister Steve Reed told PinkNews Mr Glen’s comments were “shocking” adding: “John Glen must immediately disassociate himself from this offensive slur.”

The DCMS declined to comment on either of Mr Glen’s past remarks.

ANOTHER DWP ATROCITY: Polio sufferer denied PIP because she couldn’t name doctor from 67 years ago




Betty Whyley had been receiving up to £454 each month from the government for more than 30 years as part of her Personal Independence Payment

A wheelchair-bound pensioner who contracted polio as a baby claims her benefits have been slashed – because she couldn’t name the doctor who diagnosed her 67 years ago.

Betty Whyley had been receiving up to £454 each month from the government for more than 30 years as part of her Personal Independence Payment (PIP) – a benefit that helps with the extra costs of a long-term health condition or disability .

The pensioner, from Dudley, West Midlands, who recently fell and broke her leg, has been plagued with health problems since catching polio as a newborn baby and has been in and out of a wheelchair for most of her life.

However, following a recent assessment on May 2, Betty received a letter saying she didn’t qualify for PIP because she didn’t fully take part in the consultation.

The letter she received from the Department of Work and Pensions (Photo: Caters News Agency)

She claims this decision was made on the basis that she was unable to name the doctor who diagnosed her with polio when she was just six weeks old.

She has been cared for by her husband of 48 years, Paul, who worked in the building trade while looking after his wife before retiring.

Paul, 66, said: “The first question was who diagnosed her with polio. Well we were really rather stumped.

“Being six weeks old she obviously didn’t know so we couldn’t answer the question. We hadn’t got a clue.

We were immediately dismissed and sent on our way. She went away in tears. We’re so worried now.

“She has been receiving that money for over 30 years and it’s been a huge help for us.”

A spokesperson at the Department for Work and Pensions said Mrs Whyley’s PIP claim was disallowed because she left her assessment before it was completed but that she was welcome to submit a new claim.

She said: “Assessments are necessary to determine someone’s eligibility for PIP. If a claimant doesn’t follow the process then their claim may be disallowed.”

According to the NHS post-polio syndrome can include a wide range of symptoms that develop gradually over time, including extreme tiredness, muscle weakness, shrinking muscles, muscle and joint pain and sleep apnoea.

The condition can have a significant impact on everyday life, making it very difficult to get around and carry out certain tasks and activities.

ANOTHER DWP ATROCITY: Cardiac patient declared ‘fit to work’ by benefits assessors suffers third heart attack THREE HOURS into new job


Michael Bispham, 44, was told he was well enough to work again, despite 11 letters from consultants and other medics saying he wasn’t


Micheal Bispham was refused ESA after scoring zero points (Photo: cascadenews.co.uk) 

A cardiac patient who was declared fit for work by benefits assessors suffered a third heart attack just three hours into a new job.

Michael Bispham, 44, was told he was well enough to work again, despite 11 letters from consultants and other medics saying he wasn’t.

He was refused ESA (employment support allowance) after scoring zero points.

Michael had already suffered two heart attacks, and he collapsed with a third on the day he started work as a delivery driver in Barrow, Cumbria.

His plight has echoes of the Ken Loach film ‘I Daniel Blake’, in which a heart patient battles the benefits system.

Michael, of Dalton, Cumbria, was fitted with a cardiac shock device before he started work on February 13.

To add insult to injury, news that his employment and support allowance assessment was being reversed on appeal arrived as he lay in a ward at Furness General Hospital, awaiting transfer to the region’s cardiac centre at Blackpool Victoria Hospital.

Now, his wife Emily has spoken of the double trauma of helping Michael in his recovery while fighting the “horrendous and unfair” benefits system she claims is designed to make honest people feel “worthless”.

The 44-year-old had already suffered two heart attacks (Photo: cascadenews.co.uk)

Emily, 38, said: “My husband scored zero points when he was assessed for employment support allowance.

“He’d already had two heart attacks. That should have been it.

“We knew he was too poorly, we submitted 11 letters about his condition from consultants and the hospital, but they declared him fit to work.

“It nearly killed him. I’m so angry about it.

“Just when we needed help and support, we had to navigate the system with pages of forms.

“They stopped any money because he was no longer able to job seek and we were told to start from the beginning and apply again for the ESA he’d been turned down for in the first place.

“We had nothing for three weeks at what was the worst time of our lives. It was so difficult.”

Stills from the new Ken Loch Palmes D'Or winning film I, Daniel Blake
Michael’s plight has echoes of the Ken Loach film I Daniel Blake (Photo: Daily Record)

Mrs Bispham, a former greeter at a Barrow supermarket, was forced to stop work herself last year after being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.

She hopes to return to work as soon as she is well again.

She said: “We were just normal people with jobs. We’ve got a mortgage. This could happen to anyone. But the way you are treated by the government is appalling.

“Basically, it’s a case of guilty until proven innocent at these assessments. You are there to prove you’re not making it up.

A DWP spokesperson said: “The decision on whether someone is well enough to work is taken following a thorough assessment, including all available evidence from the claimant’s GP or medical specialist.

“Anyone who disagrees with the outcome of their assessment can appeal.”

Coal miner took his own life ‘after Government hounded him over benefits claim’


Jimmy Ballentine, 60, was interviewed four times over four months and took a fatal overdose the day his twin grandsons celebrated fourth birthday Tragic Jimmy Ballentine took his own life after he was made to fear prosecution by the DWP The family of a former coal miner say he taken his own life after being “hounded” by Government officials over a benefits claim.

Jimmy Ballentine, 60, started work in the mines aged 15 but fell ill with depression after losing his job during the Thatcher strikes.

The dad-of-two was investigated by DWP fraud officers after he accidentally over-claimed a small amount of benefits.

Jimmy had £7,000 emergency savings, which unknowingly placed him slightly above the £6,000 means-tested limit.

Sources say the DWP now recognise his error was a “genuine mistake” and there was no intention to prosecute.

But Jimmy was terrified of being hauled into court and took a fatal overdose the day his twin grandsons celebrated their fourth birthday.

His heartbreaking suicide note – in which he plans his own funeral – read:

“Sorry son you will have to bury me.

“Forgive me leaving you with my debt, can not take any more, love both of you.”

Jimmy addressed son Dale in his suicide note (Photo: Family Collect)

Proud Jimmy, who wanted to repay the money out of his savings, repeatedly asked the DWP how much he owed but received no answer.

Son Dale, 34, told the Mirror: “They were hounding my dad and he believed that he was in big trouble.

“He was terrified and felt like the worst type of criminal – it was never made clear he wasn’t going to be prosecuted.

Dale says his dad was made to feel like he had ‘committed some huge fraud’ (Photo: Daily Mirror)

“They made him feel like he had committed some huge fraud, when actually what happened was a complete accident.

“He was happy to pay back the difference but they wouldn’t tell him how much he had over-claimed.

“If they had given him the figure I’m 100 percent certain he would still be here right now.

“But the system doesn’t allow for that, so he’s dead.”

Jimmy’s heartbreaking suicide note (Photo: Daily Mirror)

Jimmy grew up in County Durham and followed his father into the mines aged just 15.

He worked in the coalmining industry for two decades but his career was cut short when Maggie Thatcher closed many pits.

After losing his job, the amateur bodybuilder struggled for many years with depression, anxiety and mild schizophrenia.

Jimmy’s mental health problems led to the breakdown of his marriage to wife Hazel Peacock, 59.

He started receiving Employment and Support Allowance, Disability Living Allowance and housing benefit.

Jimmy was told in an interview that he had been illegally claiming benefits for 10 years (Photo: Daily Mirror)

Last November Jimmy, who lived near Consett, Co Durham, was interviewed by a fraud officer.

They told him that for 10 years he had been illegally claiming benefits because he had life savings of £7,000.

Jimmy saved the money, which came from the sale of his house, for emergencies and had no idea he had breached the rules.

But the DWP carried out at least four interviews over the next four months.

Dale said: “In his head he thought he owed tens of thousands of pounds and he was worried he would put his family into debt.

“We knew it was much less than that and told him so. All he wanted to know was how much he owed.”

It is believed Jimmy would have been asked to repay just a few thousand pounds back – something he was happy to do.

But his anxiety about the investigation became so severe that he killed himself on February 12 this year.

His daughter Clare Ballentine, 32, raised the alarm after he failed to wish her twin boys happy birthday.

His suicide note outlined plans for his own funeral and revealed his worries over money.

Dale, of Sydenham, South London, said: “Nobody seems to have taken his illness into consideration at any point during the investigation.

“The Government is trying to claw back as much money as possible without trying to look into the person behind the number.”

Jimmy’s inquest is due to be held tomorrow in Crook, County Durham.

Dale supports the mental health charity Mind and is urging anyone worried about benefits to seek support.

Dale says anyone who is worried about benefits should seek help (Photo: Daily Mirror)

Spokesman Paul Spencer said: “Jimmy Ballentine’s death was a tragedy.

“We’ve long been campaigning for changes to the benefits system so that it better supports people with mental health problems.

“Suicides are not inevitable, they can be prevented. If you’re feeling suicidal, it’s really important to try to talk to someone.

Information is available through Mind’s website and the charity’s confidential support line, Mind Infoline 0300 123 3393.

A DWP spokeswoman said: “Our thoughts are with Mr Ballentine’s family.

“We were aware of Mr Ballentine’s mental health issues, and our staff were dealing with the situation as sensitively as possible, while also supporting him and his family to access the right benefit support.”