'Lessons must be learned' from diabetic former soldier, who died after benefits sanction
Lessons must be learned” from the death of a Stevenage diabetic who could not afford electricity to
keep his insulin cool after his benefits were stopped.
One year ago on Sunday (July 20), former soldier David Clapson died aged 59 at his home in Hillside from fatal diabetic keto-acidosis, which the NHS calls “a dangerous complication of diabetes caused by a lack of insulin.”
His jobseeker’s allowance of approximately £70 a week – on which his family says he was reliant – had been suspended three weeks before on June 28, for missing meetings.
According to his family, Mr Clapson was found “alone, penniless and starving” a short distance from a pile of printed CVs, with nothing to his name but £3.44, six tea bags, a tin of soup and an out-of-date tin of sardines.
The coroner found that David – a former BT engineer of 16 years, who had served two years in Northern Ireland with the Royal Corps of Signals during The Troubles – had nothing in his stomach when he died.
Now his sister, Gill Thompson, says “lessons must be learned” by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) before vulnerable benefit claimants are sanctioned in future.
She said: “I rang him regularly to check on him and so did friends, but because he was such a quiet and private person neither family nor friends knew just how bad it was.
“Apparently the DWP rely on information from the claimant, support workers or medical professionals to understand the level of vulnerability.
“Should his severe condition not been taken into consideration when issuing this sanctions? Should someone have checked his file?”
In a letter sent by the DWP regarding the case, head of benefit centres – Claire McGuckin – said “I am confident that the correct procedures were followed for the administration of benefit.”
Gill said: “I am disgusted with the DWP response and now feel I should make this more public.
“David should have been helped by health professionals not persecuted by the authorities. He was not a scrounger but wouldn’t seek help. He needed true professional and clinical support which never came.
“The authorities should have been more willing to understand and help a vulnerable adult before they die.
“The signs were there and lessons must be learned to ensure cases like this are truly eliminated from a fair society.”
A spokesman for the DWP said: “Our sympathy is with Mr Clapson’s family.
“Our advisers work closely with claimants to support them into work, and if someone is in a vulnerable situation we take that into account if they tell us.
“Sanctions are only used as a last resort when claimants fail to do everything they can in return for benefits, however hardship payments are available so they can continue to meet their basic needs.”