Against Benefit Sanctions

I’m not very good on names. Actually as I’ve written before, I’m not very good on faces either. But the three people in the picture above I can name.  On the left, clearly showing her anger is Didi Rossi of Global Women’s Strike, an organisation I’ve photographed on various protests since the days of film. Didi is clearly angry, and is right to be so, against the government for their ‘class war’ on the disabled and the poor, where their policy of stopping benefits for trivial reasons has resulted in some starving to death.

At the right of the picture is the Anti-poverty campaigner Rev Paul Nicolson, founder of Taxpayers Against Poverty whose fight against the cuts has eventually led to him running up huge debts, mainly to pay excessive High Court costs awarded against him (and rather than bankruptcy to an Individual Voluntary Arrangement  for repayment.) He was formerly the real ‘Vicar of Dibley’ or rather of Turville in Buckinghamshire where the TV series was filmed until his retirement 16 years ago.

And in the centre, standing in front of the London & Eastern Region Unite union banner is Liane Groves, National Organiser  for Unite Community who had organised this protest. The posters and placards make it pretty clear that it was a protest against sanctions. It would have been nicer to have a little more of the wall plate at the left telling us that this was all happening outside Caxton House, the office of the Department of Work & Pensions, and had that banner been a few inches lower we could have read the name Caxton House above it, but I felt that this was a picture that told its story pretty well.

The message was a clear one. Cuts Kill. And also with Unite Community was another protest by Gill Thompson, sister of one of the victims of sanctions. David Clapson was an ex-soldier and a Type 1 diabetic who had left his job to care for his elderly mother and at the time his benefits were stopped was trying hard to find another job. But for missing an appointment at the job-centre (apparently because he had a doctor’s appointment for his diabetes) his benefits were stopped for a month; he had no money to buy food or to recharge his key to keep the electricity necessary to keep his insulin chilled. The result was that he died starving from from diabetic ketoacidosis caused by a lack of insulin.

Gill Thompson is fighting to have an inquest which fully examines the cause of her brother’s death, and also against the deaths of others from benefit sanctions, and came with a banner listing the names of many other victims and a petition to hand in to an official from the DWP.

Over 200,000 people have supported her in on-line petitions and this in part led to a Parliamentary Select Committee Inquiry in March 2015, but the government turned down many of its recommendations or ‘accepted them in principle’ – which appears to mean decided to ignore them in practice.

David Clapson – Sanctioned to Death
Unite against Benefit Sanctions


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