Mark Wood: 'Sweet and gentle' 44-year-old man with mental health problems 'starved to death after benefits cut'

Wood, who weighed just 35kg when he died, was deemed to be fit for work which led to his sickness and housing benefits being cut

A “sweet and gentle” 44-year-old man with mental health conditions appears to have starved to death after his benefits were cut.

Mark Wood, of Bampton, Oxfordshire, was deemed to be fit for work, which led to his sickness and housing benefits being cut about four months before his death in August last year. This had left him with £40 a week to live on.

His family, who were unaware his benefits had been reduced, said he was a “proud” man who tried to live independently. They called for the Government to change the way people with mental health problems are treated in relation to benefits, The Guardian reported.

Coroner Darren Salter said Mr Wood’s death was probably “caused or contributed to by Wood being markedly underweight and malnourished”, but added it was not possible to establish the cause of death conclusively.

Mr Wood weighed just 5st 8lbs — 35kg — when he died and his doctor, Nicholas Ward, said this body mass index was incompatible with life.

Dr Ward wrote a letter for Mr Wood to give to the Jobcentre, which said he was “extremely unwell and absolutely unfit for any work whatsoever”.

“Please do not stop or reduce his benefits as this will have ongoing, significant impact on his mental health. He simply is not well enough to cope with this extra stress. His mental and medical condition is extremely serious,” the letter added. It is not known if Mr Wood gave the letter to the Jobcentre.

Mr Wood’s sister, Cathie Wood, told The Guardian that her “sweet and gentle” brother had not opened many letters sent to him and had not known he had to go to the Jobcentre to reapply for benefits.

“He didn't deserve to die. He wasn't harming anyone,” she said.

“He was quite a proud person. He would have wanted to be seen as normal. He was desperate to get by as normal … He didn't want to impose on our mother. He wanted to survive without her help.”

Mr Wood was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome and obsessive compulsive disorder in his late 20s. He later developed an eating disorder and cognitive behavioural problems.

Ms Wood said she planned to write to David Cameron, who was her brother’s MP, and to Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary.

“I would like Iain Duncan Smith to stop talking about this as a moral crusade, and admit that this whole process of reassessing people for their benefits is a cost-cutting measure … This is not just someone being inconvenienced – this is a death,” she said.

A spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions said: “A decision on whether someone is well enough to work is taken following a thorough assessment and after consideration of all the supporting medical evidence from the claimant's GP or medical specialist. Our sympathy goes out to the family of Mr Wood.”

Tom Pollard, policy and campaigns manager at Mind, said they were “deeply saddened” by Mr Wood’s death.

“Unfortunately this tragic case is not an isolated incident. We hear too often how changes to benefits are negatively impacting vulnerable individuals, who struggle to navigate a complex, and increasingly punitive, system,” he said.

“We know the assessment process for those applying for employment and support allowance is very stressful, and too crude to accurately assess the impact a mental health problem has on someone's ability to work. This leads to people not getting the right support and being put under excessive pressure which can make their health worse and push them further from the workplace.

”We urgently need to see a complete overhaul of the system, to ensure nobody else falls through the cracks.“

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
Valerie Trierweiler’s book paints Hollande as a cold-hearted hypocrite
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
filmsMockingjay Part 1 taking hit franchise to new levels
Life and Style
techSweet Peach says scent 'shows more important things are working'
Sport
Diego Costa, Ross Barkley, Arsene Wenger, Brendan Rodgers, Alan Pardew and Christian Eriksen
footballRodgers is right to be looking over his shoulder, while something must be done about diving
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Ashdown Group: IT Systems Analyst / Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

£23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

Ashdown Group: Junior Reports Developer / Application Support Engineer

£23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

Recruitment Genius: Client Support Officer

£10 - £11 per hour: Recruitment Genius: The candidate must be committed, engag...

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible