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FILM director Ken Loach backed campaigners calling for an immediate ban on benefit assessments today after a man deemed “fit for work” died in a jobcentre.
The man had been waiting for an appointment to discuss his benefit claims, having been declared “fit for work” earlier this year.
Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) called on the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to shelve all personal independence payments (Pip) and employment and support allowance (ESA) assessments, after a 65-year-old man was found unconscious in a chair on Friday morning at the Llanelli jobcentre in Carmarthenshire.
Mr Loach, whose 2016 drama I, Daniel Blake focused on a man’s death at the hands of the benefits system, told the Morning Star that he supported DPAC’s call “every step of the way.”
He said: “What has happened really was disgraceful. The man was only 65 — he only had a few more months to go and he would have been retired anyway.
“Such is the brutality of it, but it’s clear that the Tories have no intention of changing their harsh system.
“We have to vote them out — we may as well start with Iain Duncan Smith, the architect of this misery, who is as callous as he is sanctimonious.”
Although jobcentre staff and fellow benefits claimants called an ambulance and attempted CPR on the man, he remained unresponsive and was declared dead at the scene by paramedics.
A witness said: “I didn’t know him myself, but the man who was sat next to me told me that he had grown up with the guy.
“[He] told me that the poor guy had diabetes and had been declared fit for work by the jobcentre earlier in the year, but he was obviously ill.
“The ambulance came, but he sadly died and they had to take his body out of the jobcentre. It was awful.
“We were all very shook up. It was a horrible situation that should have never happened.”
DPAC activist Jennifer Jones told the Morning Star: “We are beyond heartbroken over the devastating news of the as yet unnamed man who has lost his life in such awful circumstances.
“The saddest and most angering thing is that this man has not died in unpreventable circumstances — far from it.
“He has died in the jobcentre because he was found ‘fit for work’ when he was not, because somebody lied about his fitness levels and abilities and he wasn’t given the support that his individual needs deserved.
“We demand that the DWP impose an immediate ban on Pip and ESA assessments in light of this tragic incident and to open an investigation into the assessment centre in question.
“There must be no more deaths due to the inaccurate reports and lies from Atos/Capita assessors.
“The only way to end this suffering is to end this process altogether. This shouldn’t have happened and must never happen again.”
A DWP spokesman said: “Our thoughts and those of the staff at Llanelli jobcentre are with the family and friends at this time.”
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