THE family of a vulnerable man, who starved to death after his benefits were cut, have donated the money he was wrongly refused to charities.
Cathie Wood hopes to prevent others ending up in a similar situation to her late brother, Mark, so has given some of the money to mental health charity Oxfordshire Mind.
Mr Wood, 44, had his benefits cut to just £40 in March last year, after Atos Healthcare assessed him as being fit to work.
An inquest into his death in February, which concluded with a narrative verdict, heard he weighed just 5st 8lb when he died of malnutrition in August last year.
A month later, the Department for Work and Pensions reviewed its decision to make the cut and launched an internal review into his case, after Ms Wood and her mother Jill Gant, from Abingdon, appealed.
She has received about £500 and has split the money, so far, between Oxfordshire Mind, the Green Party, The Biscuit Fund, Oxfordshire Animal Sanctuary, the Trussell Trust and Oxfordshire Welfare Rights (OWR) – all groups her brother supported or who could have helped him.
Ms Wood said: “I gave the donation to Mind in memory of Mark and to help prevent others suffering as he did because he, and others around him, were not aware of the benefits service offered by Mind and OWR.
“If he, and we, had known about the practical, efficient and caring help available to make appeals against benefits removal decisions – we think he probably would not have died.
“My mum also attended a carers’ support group at Mind when Mark lived with her so we are grateful for that.”
Ms Wood and her mother worked with Oxfordshire Welfare Rights (OWR) to appeal to the DWP.
Mr Wood, who lived in Bampton, had obsessive compulsive disorder, Asperger’s syndrome, phobias about food, pollution, paint fumes, and social situations, and cognitive behavioural problems.
The donation of about £100 to Mind is specifically for the Benefits for Better Mental Health team.
Project manager David Bryceland welcomed Ms Wood’s generosity.
He said: “I really do believe if Mark had been able to get to us, we could have sorted his benefits issues and this would not have happened.
“Donations we receive from people allow us to be creative with how we deliver the service, unlike state contracts which are very tightly controlled.
“We work with people who are in a similar situation to Mark and advise them what they can do. We also work closely with OWR for the more complex cases.”
Anyone wishing to speak to the Benefits for Better Mental Health team can call its hotline on 01865 263756 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
HOW MANY HAS MIND HELPED?
- Oxfordshire Mind has helped more than 4,500 people since 2008, including more than 350 people so far this year.
- In that time it has been involved in 700 appeals and has a success rate of 95-98 per cent.
- Since changes to welfare came in, the charity has had an increase in calls to its hotline of 20-25 per cent.
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